WIMMERA Uniting Care fears a spike in homelessness in the Wimmera as a result of the Federal Government’s planned changes to unemployment benefits.
Under measures proposed in the Federal Budget, people under 30 will have to wait six months before collecting unemployment benefits and show they are actively job hunting despite not receiving money during that period.
Wimmera Uniting Care residential and youth service manager Alistair Houston said the unemployment benefits waiting time had the potential to force many young people onto the streets.
“These young people have nothing to fall back on,” he said.
“How are young people going to get on the ladder? We’re expecting the changes will have quite a huge impact.”
A Department of Employment spokesman confirmed Wimmera people under 30 who had to wait six months for unemployment benefits would also have to apply for 40 jobs a month.
He said the requirements were the same for people wherever they lived.
Wimmera Development Association executive director Jo Bourke said the policies would hinder young people who wanted to live and work in the region.
“There really should be consideration of the restrictions on regional people and particularly those who are actively seeking employment and want to stay within the region,” she said.
“We do have a good range of jobs advertised consistently in the region, but there would generally not be 40 jobs of a similar type at any one time.
“As we look to retain young people and build our workforce numbers and skills, these government policies don’t actually assist young people to stay in regional areas.”
Mrs Bourke said the job-seeking requirement would encourage people to look for employment in cities where there were more job vacancies.
“These new policies will impact on students as they come out of their studies and make it harder for them to focus on their careers in the region,” she said.
Mr Houston said Wimmera people faced higher travel costs and less efficient public transport, meaning job interviews and applications were harder to access.
“For example, vehicles need to be registered and if people can’t afford that then they might drive illegally to get to job interviews,” he said.
Member for Mallee Andrew Broad said there were a number of circumstances where people under 30 would not have to wait the entire six months before receiving unemployment benefits.
“For every one year of work history, one month will be discounted from their waiting period, pro-rated for part-time or casual work, to a maximum of five months’ discount from the waiting period,” he said.
Implementation of the measures will rely on the passage of legislation through the Senate which will change its make-up on July 1.