More than 5.3 million Australians on the age pension, JobSeeker and other social security payments are now receiving more cash from the federal government after an increase to Centrelink payments.
The maximum single age pension rate was increased by $14.80 to $967.50 a fortnight on September 20, with extra payments now hitting the bank accounts in time for Christmas.
Couples will also receive an extra $22.40 combined.
The boost has taken the annual pension paid for a single person to $25,155 and $37,923 for a couple.
JobSeeker and other allowances have also increased by up to $11.90 a fortnight and parenting payments as well as rent assistance have also been given a boost.
Pensions and other payments are adjusted twice a year, linked to inflation.
This will be the largest increase since 2014, the government says.
“We are ensuring pensioners maintain their purchasing power in the economy, which is bouncing back strongly,” Social Services Minister Anne Ruston said last week.
“This change puts money in the pockets of all Australians who rely on our social security system and, in particular, older Australians.
There are currently around 2.58 million Australians on the age pension, according to government figures.
756,000 people are on a disability support pension and 977,500 are receiving JobSeeker payments.
National Seniors Australia say the increase should serve as a “reminder” for older Australians to check what concessions they’re eligible for.
“The hip pocket nerve is hurting a lot of older Australians right now,” National Seniors Chief Advocate Ian Henschke said.
“I urge all pensioners and self-funded retirees to use our Concessions Calculator to see what discounts they can get.”
‘System prevents people finding work’
Welfare system paperwork is making it hard for people to find jobs as they skips meals and struggle to make ends meet, a study has found.
An Anglicare Australia study released on Thursday found 75 per cent of recipients want to do Centrelink activities that lead to work, but just 13 per cent feel their obligations actually help them find full-time employment.
Further, only 19 per cent of respondents agreed their activities were tailored to their needs, with 85 per cent disagreeing Centrelink was supporting them to find work.
The findings come as Centrelink’s mutual obligations – tasks and activities recipients must do to receive certain payments – have been restarted after a pause due to the pandemic.
Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers said the study showed a clear need to overhaul the welfare system.
“People are forced to run a gauntlet of interviews, reporting, and administration that isn’t leading to work,” she said.
“Instead it’s stopping them from finding work, harming people, and driving some to despair.
“Yet the people we spoke to actually want to do activities that matter, and that lead them into work. Instead they are being forced into pointless busywork.”
One respondent noted there was no feedback about getting claim processes wrong, adding “you only find out that you didn’t fill out a form correctly when nothing turns up in your bank account”.
“If something goes wrong it’s going to be my fault because I am the one that read it and agreed to it … if I speak to someone if I don’t understand something, I can ask them,” the respondent said.
Other takeaways included 58 per cent have had a Centrelink debt, but 47 per cent of those believed it to be the result of an error.
The study notes it is “unique by international standards” for a government to impose debts on people overpaid due to system errors that are not their fault.
Ms Chambers said recipients were being punished for the incompetence of others.
“They are punished when they miss appointments they were never told about. People don’t get a chance to appeal their breaches until after their payments have been cut off,” she said.
“It is impossible to know if their systems are accurate. Why should we assume the worst of people working through rules that Centrelink’s own staff can’t work out?”
Findings also included more than half of recipients had less than $100 of income left each week after housing costs, leading to 72 per cent “regularly” skipping meals.
Just nine per cent of respondents had never skipped a meal to save money.
Regarding those who have received a Centrelink breach, just a third felt they were given warning before action was taken, 28 per cent felt they’d received a “clear, fair reason” and only 24 per cent believed they had an opportunity to show they had done nothing wrong.