UNEMPLOYMENT STRUGGLE: Kelly Wilson struggled for seven months to find employment in Rockhampton, sacrificing meals to get by on Centrelink's Newstart Allowance.
UNEMPLOYMENT STRUGGLE: Kelly Wilson struggled for seven months to find employment in Rockhampton, sacrificing meals to get by on Centrelink's Newstart Allowance. Contributed

Newstart Allowance: CQ job seekers are starving to get by

CENTRAL Queensland's job seekers are literally starving to get by on $40 a day from Centrelink's Newstart Allowance and Kelly Wilson wants the government to step up.

With rises linked to inflation not wages, Newstart payments haven't gone up like other payments in real terms since 1994 leaving job seekers like Ms Wilson struggling to get by while trying to find a job.

Defying the stereotype of the dole bludger, Emu Park's Ms Wilson, 48, worked for an employment agency, helping find work for other job seekers before she became unemployed at the start of the year.

Even with her vast knowledge of the job market, job search techniques and qualifications, she languished on the Newstart Allowance for seven months, diligently and fruitlessly applying for work while exhausting her savings to the point when she had to choose between putting fuel in her car or skipping a meal.

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UNEMPLOYMENT STRUGGLE: Kelly Wilson struggled for seven months to find employment in Rockhampton, sacrificing meals to get by on Centrelink's Newstart Allowance.
UNEMPLOYMENT STRUGGLE: Kelly Wilson struggled for seven months to find employment in Rockhampton, sacrificing meals to get by on Centrelink's Newstart Allowance. Contributed

"I was struggling, I had to contact the land lady for help with the rent or run home to live with mum at the age of 48," Ms Wilson said.

"After rent I had $100 left over for fuel, feed the dogs and myself, pay my mobile phone, and maintain an internet connection to job search and log into MyGov.

"It's extremely tough, you have to apply for 20 jobs per month - you apply for jobs and you know what you're going to get, when you hand out resumes you know they are just being thrown in the bin the minute your back is turned." The financial poverty she experienced quickly transformed into "emotional poverty".

Ms Wilson's struggle was being replicated around the country with jobseekers struggling to get by on a payment $100 per week below the poverty line - less than 40 per cent of the minimum wage.

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NEWSTART STRUGGLE: Job seekers receiving $277.85 per week on the Newstart Allowance are struggling to meet their expenses and often have to skip meals to get by.
Job seekers receiving $277.85 per week on the Newstart Allowance are struggling and often have to skip meals to get by. ACOSS

In a survey conducted by welfare organisation ACOSS, 84 per cent of respondents on Newstart or Youth Allowance said they skipped meals, with the largest proportion saying they skipped three to four meals per week. By raising the Newstart Allowance, Ms Wilson said it would take the pressure off job seekers, who could go on to achieve more.

Her call to increase Newstart has been echoed by some Coalition MPs, former Prime Minister John Howard, Labor, The Greens, the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Business Council of Australia, and welfare organisations like ACOSS.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison remains immovable on boosting the payment saying he wouldn't engage in "unfunded empathy".

While commending those looking for a job and acknowledging $277.85 a week payment as "modest", Mr Morrison continues to say that "the best form of welfare is a job".

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NEWSTART STRUGGLE: Job seekers receiving $277.85 per week on the Newstart Allowance are struggling to meet their expenses and often have to skip meals to get by.
Research by the University of NSW found Newstart fell $96 short of meeting the basic needs of a single unemployed person. ACOSS

Senator Matt Canavan, who is on the record in the past for his support to raise the Newstart Allowance, said it "should only be considered once we get the budget back into surplus and have the means to do so".

Capricornia MP Michelle Landry said no one was saying it's easy to get by without a job.

"Which is why the Government is squarely focused on job creation to help working age Australians gain financial independence," she said.

"We are delivering results with more than 1.3 million jobs being created since we were elected, which is about 240,000 a year compared with just 155,000 on average under Labor. We want Australians in work and earning money to build a better life.

"The National Party Policy Committee will continue to monitor the Newstart allowance but the most meaningful thing we can do as a Government is to provide the conditions under which business has the confidence to employ more people."

While Ms Wilson's tale has a happy ending with her securing a new job this week, she hopes telling her story will help bring about change.

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