COULD you live on just $35 a day?
That’s the question which welfare and political leaders have been debating this week after Families Minister Jenny Macklin told journalists in Melbourne she could live on the Newstart allowance.
The comments came a day after the Gillard government introduced changes to welfare payments, leading to the majority of the 84,000 single parents who receive parenting payments being moved to the Newstart allowance when their youngest child turns eight.
Skipton man Carl Groves said Ms Macklin earned 25 times the current Newstart allowance, or around $6321 a week, and had no idea how difficult it was to live on welfare.
Receiving Newstart while he looks for work, Mr Groves has started a Facebook page challenging Ms Macklin to try living on $35 a day for a week.
“I have been applying for any job I see advertised because I am eager to get back to work and contribute, but it is very tough living on so little,” he said.
“I get around $530 a fortnight and have to pay $220 a week in rent and try to buy food for my family and pay all the bills. It’s nearly impossible.”
Mr Groves said he had been forced to cut back on clothing for his children, as well as alcohol and occasional luxuries such as going to the movies.
The former salesman said he feared his car would be repossessed in coming weeks.
“The government is hurting a lot of people by leaving the dole so low and Jenny Macklin has no idea,” Mr Groves said.
Australian Council of Social Service chief executive Dr Cassandra Goldie said the changes to the Parenting Payment, Youth Allowance, Austudy and other benefits will have the greatest impact on people trying to survive on low incomes.
“Single parents will see a cut of between $60 and $110 per week,” she said.
“This will have a devastating impact on single parent families and their children. These families are already struggling as they live below the poverty line.”
National welfare agencies have led a campaign to see a $50 increase to the Newstart allowance.
Dr Goldie said the cuts should be delayed until the Newstart allowance is increased along with other welfare payments.
“Young people continue to be poorly supported as they study or search for work. Young people over 18 and mature age students on Austudy see their fortnightly payment increase by just $4.80 today to a total payment of only $203 per week.”