A SEBASTOPOL woman has taken the campaign for an increase in unemployment benefits into her own hands, writing to Ballarat MP Catherine King for help.
Christine Tucker, 63, was made redundant from her retail job at Christmas last year, and says she is battling to live on the Newstart Allowance of $35 per day.
Starting work in her teenage years and later owning her own business, Ms Tucker said she was shocked to find herself dependent on government welfare along with about 3600 other Ballarat region residents.
“My job prospects are very slim due in part to the diminishing retail sector, my mature age and lack of advanced computer skills and yet because of my birth date, I will have to wait two years for the aged pension,” she said.
“It is humiliating and demoralising that I should have to be put on unemployment benefits rather than be able to get the pension.”
Mrs Tucker said people who stereotype welfare recipients as dole bludgers often didn’t realise how difficult life on such a small amount of money was. With a small amount of savings, Mrs Tucker said she must apply for jobs she knows she won’t get in order to receive welfare.
She said lifting the Newstart Allowance by $50 per month, as advocated by the Australian Council of Social Services, would lift spending in the Ballarat economy and create jobs.
Ballarat Centacare chief executive David Beaver welcomed calls to increase the allowance, and said an increase of $70 per week would return Newstart to an appropriate proportion of the pension based on 1980 levels.
“We need to respond to the call to look after the most in need in our society — sometimes this means we have to come up with the dollars,” he said.
Ms King said the rate of payment was designed to act as an incentive to take up work.
“Newstart Allowance is a basic payment to encourage recipients to take up work, however, the government believes the best way to assist the unemployed is to help them to find work,” Ms King said.