Welfare reform bill: how will it affect you?

The passage of the Welfare Reform Bill on 27 March 2018 will bring with it a raft of changes to the welfare system.

A key change is that people between 55-59 who are receiving Newstart unemployment benefits will have more onerous fortnightly activity test requirements from 20 September 2018.

The new requirements will consist of 30 hours of a combination of voluntary work and at least 15 hours paid work. Currently, 30 hours of just voluntary work is accepted. Those 60 years of age and over will be unaffected and still be able to meet their fortnightly mutual obligation requirements through 30 hours of volunteering.

Alongside the activity test changes, the Australian Government is attempting to address the barriers faced by mature age job seekers by investing over $100 million to increase the skills and experience of these people. How much this will help is questionable, as it equates to just $1,100 for each long-term unemployed Newstart recipient aged 50 to 59.

These changes are part of a bigger shift in which six Centrelink payments will be rolled into a single JobSeeker Payment. These payments are the Newstart Allowance, Widow B Pension, Wife Pension, Sickness Allowance, Widow Allowance and Partner Allowance. Whilst the Bereavement Allowance was slated for the cut too, the cruel manoeuvre was thwarted by a backflip by One Nation.

The JobSeeker Payment will be phased in between March 2020 and January 2022.

The previous Minister for Social Services stated that approximately 800,000 existing Newstart Allowance recipients will transfer to the new JobSeeker Payment. But fear not, the Government has confirmed that more than 99 per cent of people will have no change to their payment rates.

There is a slew of other changes however, including that job seekers will no longer be exempt from mutual obligation requirements due to drug and alcohol abuse - unless they agree to seek treatment.

Centrelink will also no longer backdate Newstart from the date the claim was lodged. It will now be paid from the date of the first appointment with the job provider.