It is tasked with tiding over unemployed Australians until they can find work, but new research suggests Centrelink is putting vulnerable people at risk of homelessness, The New Daily reports.
The Homeward Bound report has found the size of Centrelink payments and the hoops recipients are asked to jump through to receive them make finding a place to live exceedingly difficult.
The report was compiled by Canberra Community Law and National Social Security Rights Network, based on the experiences of more than 500 people across the Australian Capital Territory.
“Like all of us, these people had bills to pay, groceries to buy and people to look after,” report author and solicitor Sophie Trevitt said.
“However they were being forced to try and make ends meet often on less than $40 a day.”
The maximum amount someone can receive per week through the Newstart Allowance – the most common income support benefit paid through Centrelink – is $279.50, which Ms Trevitt noted is less than 40 per cent of the minimum weekly wage.
While some households will also receive commonwealth rent assistance and energy supplement payments, that would still leave them $96 short of the $434 a week the University of New South Wales estimates a single adult would need to get by.
“There is something fundamentally wrong with a social security safety net that forces people to live below the poverty line and leaves them at risk of homelessness in a housing market that locks out the most vulnerable members of our community,” Ms Trevitt said.
“Instead of providing a ‘safety net,’ dangerously low Centrelink payments are driving people into poverty and forcing them to make impossible choices between buying enough food for themselves and their families, paying rent and paying their bills.”
Ms Trevitt called on government to increase Newstart payments by $75 a week.
Centrelink putting Australians at risk of becoming homeless (The New Daily)
Homeward Bound: Social Security and Homelessness (National Social Security Rights Network)