JobKeeper and JobSeeker announcement welcomed, but reintroduction of the Liquid Assets Waiting Period must be dropped, and Rent Assistance raised

The extension of the JobKeeper scheme and the continued additional support for people on JobSeeker have been welcomed by Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia as essential support for mature age workers thrown into unemployment or at risk of it due to COVID-19.

However, the peak body for older Australians is calling on the Government to make a comparably permanent increase to JobSeeker in the October budget, and to reverse its decision to reintroduce the Liquid Assets Waiting Period (LAWP) from the end of September, at least for unemployed mature workers, who will be among the most vulnerable amid what will be a long term recession.

JobKeeper will continue to protect many mature workers from redundancy. However, as businesses restructure, experience from past periods of economic downturn tells us that older workers are amongst the highest proportion of people forced into redundancies. Once unemployed, older job seekers face poorer employment prospects due to age discriminatory hiring practices. Mature age unemployed people must not be forced to deplete their retirement savings in order to become eligible for JobSeeker.

COTA Chief Executive Ian Yates says it is deeply disappointing to see the LAWP reinstated when the overall JobSeeker asset test is sufficient to determine need.

“The extension of JobSeeker supplement and JobKeeper is welcome news for every Australian, including older Australians who have lost their jobs or face redundancy in the next nine months,” says Mr Yates.

“However, there are 13 job seekers for every job vacancy in Australia. It is impossible for every person seeking work to find it, and as we know, mature age workers are too often at the bottom of employers’ lists, and they dominate the long term unemployed numbers.

“In the current climate many older Australians will be out of work for years through no fault of their own. Forcing them to spend all of their savings before being provided with income support will leave them living in poverty as they age, with negative consequences for their health and wellbeing.”

Along with a permanent increase to the base rate of JobSeeker comparable with the new supplement, COTA is also calling for the October budget to include a 40% increase to the maximum rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance to help all unemployed people in the private rental market.

“The new JobSeeker Coronavirus supplement of $125 per week from September is welcome. But after 20 years of no significant increase in the former Newstart means it is long past time for the Government to announce a comparable permanent increase,” says Mr Yates.

“COTA’s State of the Older Nation survey demonstrates that people over 50 years in the private rental market, both unemployed and age pensioners, had the poorest health and wellbeing outcomes of all demographics. We must ensure these policies are tailored to prevent people, including older Australians, falling into long-term poverty.”

Media contact: Ian Yates 0418 835 439; Hannah Craft 0423 377 965