Newstart to become Oldstart?

If passed, the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill 2017 would create a new Jobseeker Payment to replace a number of working age social security payments including Newstart. 

The Australian Government claims this would "simplify the income support system and treat people in similar circumstances consistently".
At the same time, the Government hopes to achieve savings of $368.7 million, so it is not hard to see what impact this "simplification" would have on people on social security.

It would be harder to get or keep a social security payment. And that's where savings will be achieved.

But there is a nasty change for older Australians who can't find a job.

Currently Newstart Allowance recipients aged over 55 can satisfy the activity test by volunteering for 30 hours per fortnight. This arrangement only applies if the Department considers there are no real prospects of a person finding work.

If the bill is passed, the activity test would change to 30 hours per fortnight, in a combination of 15 hours of volunteering and 15 hours of paid work. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has shown that older workers (45 and over) are not overrepresented compared with younger workers. In fact, data for May 2017 for over-55s shows an unemployment rate of 3.6 per cent compared with an overall rate of 5.6per cent. Unemployment among those aged 45 to 54 is also significantly lower than the overall unemployment rate.

It is therefore not fair to increase the activity test requirements for older people on Newstart,, given that older workers are not overrepresented in unemployment and underemployment figures and tend to outperform younger people in terms of workforce participation.

The economic circumstances of long-term-unemployed people on Newstart aged 50 to 59, of whom approximately 80 per cent are single, can only be described as dire and deserving of financial relief rather than of increased pressure to find a job that is not there.

The single Newstart Allowance stands at $535.60 per fortnight, just under $14,000 a year or $38 per day. Forcing long-term-unemployed Newstart recipients aged 50 to 59 to look for a job without real support does not achieve anything other than making life a lot harder for those people who are already doing it incredibly tough.

Also as part of the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill 2017, the Wife Pension (closed to new entrants in 1995) would be merged into the new Jobseeker Payment. Payment rates would not be reduced but would no longer be indexed.

A nasty change in the Wife Pension would be that some 200 overseas recipients would simply lose it and would also lose their eligibility for the Age Pension, unless they return to Australia to live. Talk about moving the goal posts after the game has started.

Finally, when applying for a payment, it would no longer be enough to notify Centrelink of an intention to apply and for that date to be the start date for the payment. Under the changes, an application would be required to include all relevant information. If anything is missing, you wouldn't have a fortnight to find it and supply it.