Joe Hockey’s budget was always going to slash and burn, but young out of work Australians probably weren’t expecting to wind up so hacked and charred.
Hanover Welfare Services, a community agency that cares for vulnerable young people in Melbourne, said the government is “taking a great risk” by tinkering with youth unemployment benefits.
“We know that education and work plays a fundamental role in breaking the cycle of homelessness and what’s needed are targeted employment and education programs to enable this,” Hanover CEO Tony Keenan said.
“These programs need to be well thought out and require time and investment to be effective – unfortunately this budget is sadly lacking that vision,” he said.
If the Abbott Government gets its way in the Senate, under-25s will be shifted from the more generous Newstart Allowance to the lower rate of Youth Allowance.
Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of the Australian Council of Social Services, said those affected by this change will be $166 a week worse off.
“The safety net is being pulled out from under young people in the budget,” Dr Goldie said.
Under-30s will also face a new ultimatum: earn, learn or starve.
Many young job seekers will be forced to wait between one and six months to qualify for welfare payments, depending on how long they’ve been employed in the past.
After the waiting period is over, the job seeker will have to work for the dole at least 25 hours per week to keep getting the payment.
Then it’s a case of wash, rinse and repeat. After six months, they’ll be thrown back onto the waiting list for up to another half year.
However, there is a reprieve from this waiting period for full-time students, single parents, the disabled and others who can’t work full-time.
ACTU President Ged Kearney told The New Daily that this budget is the end of the fair go, especially for young job seekers.
“They are, astoundingly, penalising young people to the point where it’s something that a civilised country like Australia should not see,” Ms Kearney said. “The attack on young workers is the unkindest attack of all.”
The safety net is being pulled out from under young people in the budget
Associate Professor in Social Work at Monash University Philip Mendes said these changes punish, rather than assist, the vulnerable.
The earn or learn requirements are “coercive sticks rather than empowering carrots, and target only individual rather than systematic or structural causes of poverty and disadvantage,” Professor Mendes said.
University students would avoid the waiting period if they study full-time, but face tough times after graduation, according to the National Union of Students.
President of the National Union of Students Deanna Taylor said the changes are “disgraceful” because graduates often struggle to find a job straight away.
“There seems to be a myth that students graduate university and fall straight into a job. That’s simply not the case,” Mr Taylor said.
“Many graduates simply find it impossible to find full-time work,” she said. “It’s a very widespread problem.”
These out of work graduates would be shunted onto the waiting list along with everyone else under the new budget measures.
The Salvation Army has said that these more stringent welfare settings could have disastrous consequences.
“It is our experience that when individuals reach these desperate points in their lives, it truly can be a matter of life and death in some situations,” Salvation Army National Secretary Major Kelvin Alley said.