Budget must include assistance to unemployed: ACOSS

Unemployed Australians must not be forgotten in tonight's Budget, the community services and welfare sector has said.

As Treasurer Wayne Swan prepares to deliver the 2010/11 Budget, the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) has urged the government to introduce a paid work experience scheme and increase unemployment payment rates.

ACOSS chief executive officer, Clare Martin, said more than 600,000 Australians were currently out of work and required assistance in reconnecting with the with workforce.

“Many of Australia’s jobless are young people who require appropriate and well-targeted training and supports to help them into work,” Ms Martin said.

“ACOSS is advocating for the introduction of a paid work experience program for long-term unemployed people which is designed to transition participants into mainstream employment.

”The program would improve the confidence of jobseekers, as well as build job skills and networks that will assist with job search.”

Ms Martin said the Government should also increase the Newstart allowance to unemployed Australians seeking work.

“The Newstart allowance is less than half the minimum wage and we are calling on Government to lift the single base unemployment payments by $45 per week,” she said.

”This would mean a single person would receive $276 per week, instead of the inadequate $231 per week currently received.

ACOSS has also urged the Government o take up the Henry Tax Review recommendation to increase rent assistance and link maximum rates to market rents.

"We have asked for a 30 per cent increase in rent assistance for low-income households which is about $15 per week,” Ms Martin said.

"The Henry review notes that over the last three years annual rents have risen at an annual rate of 10 per cent, yet rent assistance has increased by only 2.7 per cent."

Ms Martin added that a single unemployed person spends about half of their payments on rent, leaving very little for other living expenses.

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