Job seekers urge PM: Let us live with dignity
Struggling Australians are cutting back on food and skipping medicines to stay on top of their bills.
As the Morrison Government prepares to release the Federal Budget, Australians on the JobSeeker payment have revealed the brutally lean their weekly budget has become.
It comes as the blow of a reduced JobSeeker payment and the axing of the JobKeeper wage subsidy kick in, prompting desperate job seekers to urge the Prime Minister to raise the benefit to "a living standard".
'WE COULD ACTUALLY LIVE A REAL LIFE IF BENEFITS WERE RAISED'
The last time Cliff Fraser had a night out with his wife was NYE 2020.
They did volunteer work at a neighbourhood house and scored free tickets for a night out to the movies.
"We took our granddaughter to the movies," the 61-year-old told News Corp on the eve of the budget.
Mr Fraser was a long-haul truck driver earning nearly $120,000 a year until a heart attack during a drive from Sydney to Melbourne 10 years ago ended his driving career.
He now works two hours a day as a school cleaner to supplement his JobKeeper payment of $491.71 per fortnight.
Together with his wife Anne, who is on a pension, they live on a strict budget of just under $900 a week. Last week they were in the red $29.08.
"This shows as being in the red but we don't actually put money aside for things like car rego and other costs. We just panic when they fall due," he said.
Mr Fraser tried finding permanent work after his heart attack but didn't have much luck.
He was left with no choice but to sell his house last year and walked away debt-free but with virtually noting left over.
He and his wife are now living in a rental in Skipton, near Ballarat, in regional Victoria.
But every week is a struggle.
Recently, they needed to update their prescription glasses for $900 but their budget simply didn't allow for it. Instead they used the COVID-19 supplement they had saved up for a rainy day to pay for them.
"Last time we got an advance from Centrelink to pay for this. In effect an interest-free loan that is paid back at $19 per week. This time we saved the COVID-19 supplement to pay for them," he said.
The drop in the JobSeeker payment has left him and Anne worse off.
A small increase in the federal budget would make a huge difference, he said.
"I would like to see all Centrelink benefits raised to a living standard," Mr Fraser said.
"I would like to see it increased by $30 to $50 a day; that would make most people much better off.
"We could actually live a real life, we could occasionally go out and have a meal or watch a movie. We don't have anything in terms of entertainment in this budget."
SNAPSHOT OF CLIFF'S BUDGET LAST WEEK
JobSeeker: $491.71 per fortnight/$245.85 per week
Cleaning work: $517.65 per fortnight/$258.82 per week
Anne's pension: $770.48 per fortnight/$385.24 per week
TOTAL: $1779.82 per fortnight/$889.91 per week
Cleaning products/personal hygiene: $10
Car insurance: $15
Car service, tyres, repairs etc: $35
Car registration: $14
TOTAL EXPENSES: $919
Money remaining: -$29.08
'JOBSEEKER HAS BEEN CUT WAY TOO SOON'
When Carol Perkins goes grocery shopping she looks for items that are on sale or about to expire.
"I'm already looking for food that's close to the use by date just so I can save a couple of dollars or I am looking for sales," she told News Corp.
Ms Perkins, in her fifties, from Sydney's inner west, lives on a JobSeeker payment of just $358 a week.
She lives in subsidised housing and receives a small supplement for medical costs.
Occasionally she makes a small profit from a decluttering microbusiness she has set up. But most days it just "breaks even".
"After paying rent, there's nothing much left to deal with if needed like to replace an old washing machine, or repair a fridge, computer or mobile phone," Ms Perkins said.
"There's no budget for out of pocket expenses like going to the dentist, optometrist or seeing a specialist or getting medical tests not covered by Medicare.
"No budget for hobbies or social meet ups with friends - over time mental health can take its toll and there's nothing much of a safety net out there to help people in difficult times."
Up until her mid-40, Ms Perkins had worked in office administration with stints in the NSW Premier's Department, private business and not-for-profit organisations.
She was a personal assistant for the managing director of an engineering firm for 10 years before she was made redundant from that role. Since then she has struggled to find work.
"I had a good track record up to my mid-40s and I had no idea of the challenges ahead of me. I'm dumbfounded," she said.
She's also been diagnosed with a neurological condition that can be managed with a prescription medicine but she simply cannot afford it.
"There is a medicine that my specialist recommends that costs $200 a month but there is no way I can afford this medicine; I get just $3 off a week (subsidy). I've never been able to find it (the money)."
Ms Perkins says a $60 to $80 a day increase in the JobSeeker payment would go a long way to relieving financial pressure.
"The JobSeeker has been cut too soon, way too soon. To live with a bit of dignity, to be able to afford the necessities in life, I'd like to see at least a rise of between $60- $80 a day," she said.
SNAPSHOT OF CAROL'S BUDGET LAST WEEK
JobSeeker: $620 per fortnight/$310 per week
Rent assistance: $81 per fortnight/ $40.50 per week
Supplements: $15 per fortnight or $7.50 per week
TOTAL: $716 per fortnight/$358 per week
BUDGET PER WEEK
Cleaning products/ personal hygiene: $10
(Funeral) insurance: $14
TOTAL EXPENSES: $358
Money remaining: $26
Originally published as Job seekers urge PM: Let us live with dignity