Marie Jentner’s husband was dying when Centrelink gave her some more bad news: she was now a jobseeker, The Guardian reports.
At 62, she had quit her job of 27 years to care for Siegfried, who had testicular cancer and couldn’t walk or look after himself. When he was moved into palliative care the following year, Jentner’s carer’s payment was cancelled and she was put on the lower Newstart allowance.
“I retired in 2017 to stay home and look after my husband,” Jentner, 64, tells Guardian Australia. “I’ve worked nearly 45 years of my life, and there’s no way I wanted to go back to work. And they said, ‘Well, you need to do something because the government has changed things. You need to be on Newstart. You could do either community work or volunteering.’”
Jentner is among the fastest growing cohort of people on Newstart – those aged between 55 and 64. They are on Newstart for three and a half years on average.
Amid debate around the low rate of Newstart, for those new “jobseekers” who are nearing pension age, a collision of other policy changes are starting to bite. Rudd government reforms mean Jentner will have to wait until she is 66 – an increase of six months from July – to access the age pension, which is nearly $200 per week more than Newstart.
Nearly 12 months ago, the Coalition government’s welfare reforms introduced “mutual obligations” for Newstart recipients over 60 for the first time. They must now volunteer 10 hours a week – or face standard job search requirements – to keep getting an income.