The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has released a new survey report, How JobSeeker and other income support payments are falling behind the cost of living. It surveyed 449 people living on JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and Parenting Payment between July and August 2022 to gauge how they are managing to cover the cost of basic goods and services in the face of skyrocketing living costs.

Among the report key findings:

  • 62% have had difficulty getting medication or medical care due to the increased cost of living. Almost all (96%) said that the inability to cover the cost of living harmed their physical and mental health.
  • 62% are eating less or skipping meals while 71% are cutting back on meat, fresh fruit, and vegetables.
  • 96% of people renting privately are in rental stress, paying more than 30% of their income on rent, while 48% have received a rent increase in the past 6 months, with a third reporting a rise of $30 or more a week.
  • 70% of people who regularly use a car said they had difficulty travelling to work, medical appointments, or other commitments as a result of increased fuel costs.
  • More than half (57%) of respondents are shortening or taking fewer showers because of increased energy costs. 7 in 10 are cutting their use of heating. 28% currently have energy bill debt and a further 22% expect to go into debt when they receive their next bill. 46% of respondents are going to bed early to keep warm.

ACOSS acting CEO, Edwina MacDonald, said the existing income support system was woefully inadequate.

“People on low, fixed incomes were already struggling with covering basic costs before the cost of living skyrocketed. Economists and commentators speak reassuringly of ‘buffers’ but there is no buffer when your income is $48 a day, let alone in the face of surging prices for petrol, food, and rent.

“People on Jobseeker, Youth Allowance and Parenting Payment face impossible choices. No one should have to choose between food and medicine, but these are exactly the choices being forced on people in Australia, one of the world’s wealthiest nations.”

ACOSS recommends a range of measures including:

  • Lift income support payments to at least $73 a day, including JobSeeker, Youth Allowance, Austudy, Abstudy, Special Benefit and Parenting Payment. Urgent action should be taken in the October budget to address the acute crisis facing people on low, fixed incomes.
  • Index JobSeeker and related payments to wages as well as the Consumer Price Index, to ensure they maintain pace with community living standards over the long term.
  • Increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance by 50% to reduce rental stress, noting housing costs are the biggest household cost.
  • Establish a disability and illness supplement of at least $50 a week to recognise the additional costs that people with disability and chronic illness face.
  • Establish a single parent supplement that recognises the additional costs of single parenthood. This supplement should increase as children get older, given the cost of children rises as they age.

Download the report

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