This year’s federal budget began to recognise the full impact that the cost-of-living crisis has had on young people across the country. Youth Action supports the Federal Governments’ move to address the inaccessibility of healthcare, the lack of housing and the need for stronger income support for those doing it tough.
The past three years have been difficult for young people in NSW, with the pandemic, fires and floods and ongoing intergenerational inequity. The combination of these events has seen young people fall further behind. For many young people, these events have increased poverty and housing insecurity, homelessness, disengagement from education and an increase in mental health issues. The cost-of-living crisis has compounded these issues and reduced quality of life for these young people.
The $40 per fortnight increase to JobSeeker, Austudy and Youth Allowance adds up to $730 per fortnight for a single person on JobSeeker with no children. While this is a good start, Youth Action would like to see this raised to at least $76 per day in line ACOSS Raise the Rate campaign.
Increasing the rate of income support for young people doing it tough will help many young people balancing study or trying to support themselves, during the cost-of-living crisis. We have heard from young people who say they have been forced to consider ceasing study as Youth Allowance is not enough to support them. Youth Action would love to see better supports to ensure that education remains accessible to all young people regardless of their financial circumstances.
Cost of Living
Young people living independently must balance the costs of rent with other cost-of-living concerns such as the growing prices of utilities. The new targeted energy bill relief is currently only available for pensioners, Seniors Health Card holders and Family Tax Benefit A and B recipients. This means that many young people living out of home in expensive rentals and share houses will not benefit from the scheme.
Housing and Homelessness
An increase of 15% to the Commonwealth Rent Assistance scheme (changing the max rate from $157.20 to $180.80 per fortnight for a single person living alone) is a welcome reform and will help young people survive record increases to private rents. Young people are still faced with record increases to their weekly rent and dwindling rental stock that makes finding suitable accommodation much more difficult. Youth Action supports the call made by the national youth peak AYAC to double the rate of increase to the Commonwealth Rent Assistance scheme from 15% to 30%.
Meanwhile, Youth Action recognises the introduction of the Housing Australia Future Fund as a great starting point to build 30 000 new social and affordable homes over 5 years. We would like to see this commitment expanded to respond to the growing nature of youth homelessness. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported in their 2021 census that nearly a quarter (23%) of all people experiencing homelessness were aged from 12 to 24 years. These young people need funding for targeted support, early-intervention, crisis accommodation and purpose-built social housing.
In our recent consultations, Youth Action has heard that young people are struggling to access healthcare due to a lack of bulkbilling GPs. We welcome the commitment to triple the incentive for doctors to bulk bill patients under 16 years of age and Commonwealth Concession cardholders. While this will help many young people, Youth Action does not want to see those young people over the age of 16 and not holding a Concession card to left without access to bulkbilled healthcare.
Inability to access healthcare is a particular challenge for young people who require mental health services. Many young people that we heard from agreed that the cost of seeing a mental health professional such as a psychologist or psychiatrist is a significant barrier to seeking help. They appreciated the subsidised visits that can be accessed using GP referred mental health plan however a number of young people have spoken to us about living with long term, chronic mental health issues that required more appointments than currently provided within a care plan. This in turn increases pressure on free mental health services with young people and youth workers telling us that there are long waitlists to access these services. Better funding for mental health supports for young people is necessary to lift the pressure on free services and allow young people to access private care when needed
Youth Action sees the 2023 – 2024 Federal Budget as a good start in tackling the growing inequality that young people are facing in the current cost-of-living crisis. While this budget has recognised the need for cost-of-living relief and support for those relying on income support, we would like to see the Federal Government take further steps to expand their targeted cost-of-living relief to a greater number of young people who urgently need it.