On 1 May, the Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker, The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council released a statement urging a review on the welfare system, The Catholic Weekly reports.
Payments have not been updated in terms of real buying power since 1994 despite rises in rent, food and bills. The statement is timely especially in regards to the 2018 Federal Budget causing public discontent.
“Wages have stagnated since 2012 [and] families are feeling the pinch. But the most vulnerable- including the working poor- are finding it virtually impossible to make ends meet,” said Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen of Parramatta as the ACSJC statement was released.
In light of this social issue is the recent controversy caused by Federal MP Julia Banks stating on ABC Radio that she could live on the $40 a day welfare that many Australians subsist on. For many, welfare is not a choice and what often is not taken into account is $40 being a gross figure. If day-to-say costs are brought to light, the net sum is insufficient.
The Catholic Weekly interviewed Australian students- many of whom rely on welfare in the form of Student Allowance. For 20-year-old Cecilia Streckfuss, who attends a Catholic tertiary institute, university is a hand-to-mouth existence.
Three years ago, Cecilia moved from her hometown, Ballarat, to pursue an education in Sydney unavailable in regional Australia. According to Centrelink, the average amount given to students living away from home is a fortnightly stipend amounting to a weekly sum of $222.90. For Cecilia’s basic living expenses this in insufficient:
“For me, it is $275 a week in Sydney for rent. And I share a house. Weekly food costs $130. Just from these expenses alone, I am already put into -$182 of weekly deficit if I was relying solely on my Student Allowance.”
To alleviate this predicament, Cecilia works two casual jobs.
An OECD Report in 2015 concluded that when income inequality rises, economic growth falls.
Unfortunately, there have been no legislated changes to Newstart or Student Allowance rates in over 23 years.
“The common good will not be served unless we ensure the greatest support to those most in need,” Bishop Long concluded.
Australian Students struggle with Rising Cost of Living (Catholic Weekly)
Cecilia Streckfuss, 20 – a struggling student / Catholic Weekly