South Burnett CTC CEO Nina Temperton is worried about what will happen when welfare payments drop back to pre-COVID levels

July 20, 2020

South Burnett CTC has taken the rare step of publicly backing a national campaign aimed at stopping Australia from “falling off a cliff” come September.

The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) – the peak body for the community services sector – has launched the “Raise The Rate For Good” campaign to lobby the Federal Government against returning welfare payments to pre-COVID-19 levels.

South Burnett CTC CEO Nina Temperton said the South Burnett had a big problem coming up, and it wasn’t only CTC which feared what was going to happen when the various stimulus packages were removed.

“People have been getting extra money from the Federal Government – top-up payments for people on benefits, stimulus payments, JobSeeker and JobKeeper,” Mrs Temperton said.

“As a result of all these payments – which we have very much welcomed, by the way – there has been a decreased demand for emergency relief money.”

CTC had noticed the demand for emergency cash to pay bills or buy food had dropped away.

“I believe this is not only for us but for other agencies, too,” she said.

“We have a financial counsellor and she has been very busy putting together information for people on how to access all these additional benefits.

“But she has also been strongly counselling against people spending all the extra money.

“Quite a few people have taken that advice but an awful lot of people have had to spend it to keep themselves afloat.”

Mrs Temperton said she believed a similar thing had occurred with the $10,000 early-access to superannuation program.

“A lot of people have got used to extra money even though it was only just enough to buy the essentials,” she said.

“When that money runs out – and the potential that there won’t be jobs to go back to – then heaven help us!”

The Federal Government’s JobSeeker payment scheme replaced Newstart payments as part of the COVID-19 emergency response.

At the height of the pandemic crisis, JobSeeker was effectively doubled to $1100 a fortnight for singles but that is set to revert to about $560 in September.

“Everyone is bracing themselves then for a flood of requests for assistance,” Mrs Temperton.

“For the first time in our history, CTC has agreed to support a campaign asking the Federal Government to increase the rate of basic benefit payments.

“We have been really grateful for the banks and the supermarkets and the way they have reacted to the crisis, allowing people to defer payments, but eventually it will all have to be paid for – and for people who have absolutely nothing in reserve, it’s going to be really, really hard.”

Mrs Temperton said the basic payment of $40 a day – even in the South Burnett where things are probably cheaper than many places – was not enough to live on.

“We are worried about the people but most of all about their children. It will lead to all the associated problems …” she said.

“Everybody seems to be equally frightened of the (September) cliff. It’s not just us.”

ACOSS’ campaign to “Raise the Rate for Good” has set a target income of $500 a week.

“Experts define the poverty line in Australia as $480-$500 per week for a single person with no children, including housing costs,” ACOSS says.

“Before the COVID-19 crisis, the rate of Newstart had not been increased in real terms for 25 years, while the cost of living, especially housing, has gone through the roof.”

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