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Government should consider delaying rollout of new Jobseeker Payment as Centrelink workload will increase with COVID-19 response roll out

From March 20, 2020 Newstart Allowance, Sickness Allowance, Wife Pension, Bereavement Allowance and Widow B Pension will cease and most recipients of these payments will transition to Jobseeker Payment, Age Pension or Carer Payment.
 
“I am very concerned that the Centrelink system will be under additional strain as casual workers are forced to self-isolate and will be applying for either an emergency payment, Newstart or the former sickness payment," Senator Rachel Siewert said. 
 
“I am very worried about people falling through the cracks, particularly older Australians who have been on a Wife Pension and are not familiar with the mutual obligation requirements of a working age payment as well as those casual workers who will have to apply for Newstart or a sickness payment because they can’t go to work. 
 
“Centrelink is not fit for purpose and continued staff cuts, lack of appropriate investment and management of the Robodebt debacle means that Centrelink is under strain with its current caseload, let alone the added load we are going to start seeing. 
 
“From March 20, 2020 no new applications for the Sickness Allowance will be approved and recipients who would have previously received a Sickness Allowance will now receive the Jobseeker Payment which will be subject to the activity test unless they are exempt. 
 
“At the time this legislation went through I sought to amend the bill to ensure that those who would have been eligible for a sickness allowance would be automatically exempt from looking for work. 
 
“I am very worried about sick people being subject to a complicated exemption process at this particular time.  We already have very high numbers of sick and disabled people who are living in poverty on Newstart and this will add to the numbers. 
 
“While the Government seems to think we can’t afford to increase Newstart there seems to be plenty of money to go around to punish people on income support. Whether it’s the Cashless Debit Card, the flawed jobactive system or attempts to drug test people on income support this Government has millions to spend.
 
“Scotty from Marketing thinks that it’s time to rebrand Newstart. We think it’s time to raise Newstart so that everyone in our community has what they need to live a good life.” 
 


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Lucy Cowcher-Guthrie: 0418 401 180

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