We recently interviewed people around Tasmania about their experiences living on income support payments, in particular of their experiences attempting to make ends meet on Newstart.
It is their stories which have formed the bones of our submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs Inquiry into Newstart and Related Payments. They are stories of anxiety, hunger, fear, stigma, poor health, isolation and despair.
In truth, there should be no need for this inquiry. This inquiry is taking place to demonstrate and look for evidence of the need for change in Newstart and other payments, when that need is already well known, proven, and a government response is long overdue.
When you read the firsthand stories of the lives of Tasmanians trying to survive on Newstart, the evidence of need is heart-rendingly clear.
Where getting teeth fixed is out of reach and considered a luxury until the pain is so severe they go without food so they can afford a dentist.
Of people who are forced to make choices every day between heating their house and eating. Of a society in which taking your son to the local footy game means saving for weeks and then feeling like a failure because you can’t afford to buy him a pie while you’re watching the game together.
One of the comments we heard from a woman in her 30s deserves to be read by all:
“I hate being a ‘dole bludger’. I want to support myself and enjoy life.”
This is the day-to-day reality for so many of our fellow Tasmanians who are ready and willing to work but are trapped in the cruel cycle of poverty by inadequate income support payments.
Our submission provides a set of recommendations that, if adopted, would be life changing for those Tasmanian jobseekers.