Low income families recognised

While low income families have been recognised in the federal budget, a push for parents to enter the workforce earlier does not bode well for Latrobe Valley, a local support agency has said.

Anglicare Gippsland’s Dennis Minster said fresh moves to push single unemployed parents off Parenting Payment onto Newstart Allowance once children turned eight years old (or six for couples), was not conducive to unemployment realities in the Latrobe Valley.

While jobseekers have landed a marginal increase of $4 per week in Newstart payments, Mr Minster said the change, which begins on 1 January, would not achieve its goal of getting more Valley people into the workforce.

“Considering the unemployment rate in Latrobe City, where we have one of highest rates of unemployment in the country, this is a bit concerning for us,” Mr Minster said.

“If you look at the number of people in the Valley on Newstart in the last financial year, 68 per cent were on it for more than a year; I don’t think the employment situation has improved a great deal and it’s not going to improve in the coming period.”

Mr Minster said the move would lead to more debt consolidation and flow-on affects for low income families.

“Obviously there are some positives coming out of the budget, but here in the Latrobe Valley, we are not seeing the same employment circumstances as the rest of much of the country.”

Mr Minster welcomed news of a surprise measure to increase ‘Family Tax Benefit A’ benefits, beginning July 2013, which will see families on the maximum FTB rates receiving an extra $300 per year with one child, or $600 dollars with two children.

However, the FTB eligibility criteria has been tightened from families with children under 21, down to children under 18, or 19 if still in high school.

Parents of school aged children can expect to receive bonus education payments of $410 per primary and $820 per secondary school child through the ‘School Kids Bonus’, which will replace the Education Tax Refund, and its requirement to provide tax receipts.

Meanwhile, the income tax-free threshold is due to triple from $6000 to $18,200 on 1 July, as previously announced to coincide with the introduction of the carbon tax.