The surging cost of living is having a devastating impact for people on income support, with 68 per cent eating less or skipping meals, according to a new report by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS).

The research surveyed 365 people living on JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and Parenting Payment over February and March 2023, finding income support payments are completely inadequate.

The JobSeeker Payment is just $50 a day and Youth Allowance is just $40 a day.

Among the report key findings:

  • 68% are eating less or skipping meals while 81% are cutting back on meat, fresh fruit, vegetables and other fresh items.
  • 68% have had difficulty getting medication or medical care due to the increased cost of living. 99% said that the inability to cover the cost of living harmed their mental health and 94% said it harmed their physical health
  • 93% of people renting privately are in rental stress, paying more than 30% of their income on rent. 75% have received a rent increase in the past 12 months, with 50% reporting a rise of $30 or more a week.
  • 76% said they use their car less than normal, and a further 11% don’t use their car at all.
  • 65% are cutting back on cooling/ heating and 45% are taking fewer hot showers to reduce energy costs

ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said income support levels are woefully inadequate and must be raised.

“In the past 12 months the costs of food, rent and energy have all surged by double digits.

“This has meant that people on JobSeeker and related payments cannot afford to eat enough, cannot get essential medication or healthcare, and often go into debt to pay their energy bills.

“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.

“The only way to address this problem is to deliver a real increase to JobSeeker and related payments so that they are lifted to at least the same level as the pension.”

ACOSS is recommending a range of measures for the May Budget including:

  • Lift income support payments to at least $76 a day, including JobSeeker, Youth Allowance, Austudy, Abstudy, Special Benefit and Parenting Payment.
  • Doubling Commonwealth Rent Assistance.
  • Establish a disability and illness supplement of at least $55 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.

Read the full report here.

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