In supporting people to reach their full potential, including to find meaningful work, we cannot ignore the structural barriers to participation that many people face, including locational disadvantage, a lack of appropriate housing and a social safety net that has been chronically underfunded.

Newstart is simply not enough to live on. We can’t expect a person to find and secure a job when they are struggling to survive – when they are forced to skip meals, forgo healthcare and to not use heating in winter because their income is so low. There is growing recognition across society that the current rate of Newstart, which has not increased in real terms since 1994, is inadequate. In fact, the payment is so low that it is now widely recognised as constituting a barrier to employment.

In our submission, we argue that raising the level of income support will help reduce poverty and inequality in Australia, benefiting not just individuals who are struggling but the broader communities in which they live.

More broadly, Jesuit Social Services is concerned at the insidious, increasing demonisation of people accessing income support. This is reflected in measures such as the legislative proposal to drug test welfare recipients; excessive penalties for failure to comply with requirements of employment services initiatives, such as the Community Development Program; and the ongoing trials of cashless welfare measures which see people’s payments quarantined to a debit card on a blanket basis in specified locations. People who are struggling in society should be listened to and supported, not subjected to punitive measures.

Read our submission to the Newstart inquiry here.