Clear connection between homelessness and inadequate Newstart payments, says Homelessness Australia

29 August 2019


In the past six years across Australia, the number of people on Newstart payments seeking assistance from homelessness services increased by 75%, according to a new analysis by Homelessness Australia. This has easily outpaced the growth in the number of people receiving Newstart, which rose by 28% over the same period.

Much of the increase in people receiving Newstart payments has been a result of changed eligibility requirements for the single parenting payment and the disability support pension. Homelessness Australia is calling on the Federal Government to heed the calls of the social services sector, business leaders and economists and raise the levels of Newstart and Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA), to ensure people can afford the basic costs of housing in the private rental market.

Since 1995-96, the year after Newstart was last increased in real terms, the median weekly cost of private rent has increased by 166%, from $139 to $370 per week in 2017-18, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

“The repercussions of Newstart payment levels staying stagnant in real terms can be clearly seen in the number of people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness while receiving this supposed ‘safety net’ payment,” says Homelessness Australia Chair Jenny Smith.

“According to Anglicare’s most recent Rental Affordability Snapshot, only two properties listed for rental across Australia were affordable for single people on Newstart.

“Meanwhile, 40% of people receiving CRA still pay more than 30% of their income in rent, which defines housing stress for low-income households.”

In 2011-12, a total of 30,761 people receiving the inadequate Newstart payment asked for help due to homelessness or being at risk of homelessness, but this number has continued to rise sharply to 54,066 people in 2017-18.

“There really isn’t any point calling Newstart a ‘safety net’ when it doesn’t do its job – which should be protecting people from poverty and enabling them to have a home,” says Ms Smith

“State and federal governments need to deliver social housing so that people on the lowest incomes can afford a home, as well as increasing unemployment payments and rental supplements so people can afford private rental.“