National

Welfare body seeks bigger Newstart boost

By AAP Newswire

Australia's peak welfare group has upped the ante on its campaign to increase the rate of Newstart, calling for it to be boosted by $95 a week.

The Australian Council of Social Service has previously called for a $75 per week increase to the unemployment benefit.

But it says the $20 higher figure it is now campaigning for is needed because the cost of essentials and housing has risen dramatically.

ACOSS made the call in its federal budget submission released on Thursday.

The maximum Newstart payment for a single person with no children is about $280 per week, or $40 a day.

There have been widespread calls for the rate to rise from all sides of the political and business spectrum, but the government has remained firm in its argument that it would rather people get a job.

ACOSS says a rise to the payment will trickle through to rural and regional communities, including those at the start of a long road of bushfire recovery.

The organisation says climate change widens and entrenches poverty.

"Our budget submission makes the case for a well-targeted fiscal stimulus package including an immediate boost to Newstart, investment in social housing construction and energy efficiency," ACOSS chief Cassandra Goldie said.

"Tax cuts and investment incentives are much less effective in boosting the economy per dollar spent and do little to assist those on the lowest incomes."

The federal budget, due to be released on May 12, should boost investment in mental health, disability and the aged care sector to ensure Australians receive adequate support, ACOSS says.

The group wants:

* $2.3 billion to increase home care packages for aged care.

* $2 billion more for community services, which includes homelessness, mental health and food relief services.

* Cut fossil fuel subsidies and instead use the billions to fund disaster relief and a transition towards a low-carbon economy.

"In the aftermath of devastating bushfires, it is all the more clear that climate change widens and entrenches poverty," Dr Goldie said.

"We must cut emissions, including by investing in energy efficiency for social housing to help people on low incomes cope with energy bills and extreme heat while creating jobs."