More than half a million young Australians could need emergency assistance including, food, bills and essential services, as a result of the Abbott Government changes to welfare, according to government figures.
Department of Social Services officials have told a parliamentary hearing the budget included a $229.6 million fund over four years to help people with food, utility bills and essential services.
It will provide a safety net for people under 30 who may need to wait for six months to receive welfare payments because they are not earning or learning.
Department officials estimated 550,000 job seekers would access the assistance.
Brotherhood of St Laurence head Tony Nicholson told Fairfax the policy was “draconian”.
“It will be a catastrophe for those people and also for the welfare agencies that will have to pick up the pieces,” he said.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said it was the policy equivalent of “giving every passenger a parachute because they know the plane can’t fly”.
“Why on earth are they giving more money to the homeless shelters when you don’t have to put the bad policy in place to begin with?” he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
Treasurer Joe Hockey yesterday defended his plan to spend money on emergency assistance for young people who are forced off the dole due to his budget measures.
Mr Hockey said it was not an admission the learn-or-earn policy was harsh because the government was putting in appropriate safety nets.
He hopes none of the safety nets would need to be used.
“But we are not going to leave people to fall to the bottom without a chance to get back,” he said.
Asked whether he expected the fund would be used, he said: “We will wait and see.”
The previous Labor government took single parents off the parenting payment and put them onto Newstart without any safety net, Mr Hockey said.
– with AAP