4 August 2023

Roughly two million Australians to benefit from increased financial assistance

| Andrew McLaughlin
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Increased benefits will kick in from 20 September. Photo: File.

A bill to provide financial assistance to Australians using social security safety nets passed its final legislative hurdle on 2 August, meaning increased benefits can kick in on 20 September.

The Strengthening the Safety Net Bill will see the base rates of working-age and student payments including JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment (Partnered), Austudy, ABSTUDY Living Allowance, Disability Support Pension (Youth), and Special Benefit all increase by $40 per fortnight.

The age at which the higher rate of Jobseeker Payment for single recipients is paid will be reduced from 60 to 55, meaning an estimated 52,000 recipients aged 55 to 59 will receive an increase of $92.10 per fortnight.

Commonwealth Rent Assistance maximum rates will also increase by 15 per cent. Single parents with children aged eight and above will be eligible for the higher Parenting Payment (Single), meaning 57,000 parents will receive an additional $176.90 per fortnight to the support they receive until their youngest child turns 14.

Regular indexation of these payments will also occur annually on 20 September. For 2023/24, after indexation changes, the new higher rate of JobSeeker Payment will be $749.20 per fortnight, and for recipients aged 55 years and over who have been on payment for nine continuous months it will be $802.50 per fortnight.

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The Bill was introduced to the House of Representatives on 25 May and passed on 31 May. It then went to the Senate on 13 June and passed that hurdle on 2 August. Flagged in May’s Federal Budget, the measures are expected to cost about $7.6 billion over the forward estimates period.

“These are responsible changes, which are carefully calibrated to balance providing additional support to those on the lowest income support payments, without adding to inflation,” Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth said in a 25 May speech to Parliament.

“The measures in the bill deliver on our commitment to consider the rates of payments ahead of every budget. They deliver on our commitment to provide additional assistance where we can, to those Australians doing it tough, particularly those on income support payments.”

The Government estimates about two million people will benefit from the changes, including 580,000 women, 318,000 young people under 25, 150,000 First Nations Australians, and 245,000 mature-aged Australians.

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In a 3 August release, Minister Rishworth said, “As part of the $14.6 billion cost of living package we announced in the 2023-24 Budget, we are increasing Jobseeker and student payments and Commonwealth Rent Assistance, providing a higher rate of JobSeeker Payment for older Australians, and expanding access to Parenting Payment (Single).

“JobSeeker and other income support payments are about helping those in our community who need it for a period of time.”

“More broadly, it is important to remember these income support changes work alongside other cost of living relief in the Budget including help with power bills, record investment in Medicare bulk-billing and cheaper medicines. Millions of Australians will directly benefit from these measures – including Australians on income support,” she added.

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