An Income Support System Designed For The 1990’s Is No Help For Young People

An Income Support System Designed For The 1990’s Is No Help For Young People

The National Youth Commission Australia (NYCA) Youth Income Guarantee Paper reveals that young people are struggling to afford basic necessities such as rent, food, bills and medicine, and often having to choose between them. 


Chair of the NYCA Maj. David Eldridge from the Salvation Army says that “the low rate of income support for young people living away from home falls well short of the costs of daily living. High housing costs force students and young jobseekers into poverty and sub-standard accommodation, compromising their education and employment outcomes, physical and mental health.”


The Paper proposes an overhaul of the current income support system for young people through Federal Government implementation of nine recommendations, including instituting a Youth Income Guarantee as a single income support model for young people. 


The NYCA argues that 85 percent of the minimum cost for healthy living of an unemployed adult should be the base amount young people receive on income support. Healthy living is measured by pricing items needed for a minimum standard of healthy living for different family structures where the primary income earner was either unemployed or in low-income work and indexing this in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and wage increases. Using this method, the NYCA estimates the base rate for income support for young people to be $820 per fortnight for the away-from-home rate, and $450 per fortnight for the at-home rate of payment plus additional incentive payments for participation in education, training, and job search activities. 


While many across the social sector have repeatedly called for increases to income support to ensure Australians aren’t living below the poverty line, the NYCA paper is calling for one of the highest permanent increases to income support specifically for young people aged 16-24 years old, acknowledging that young people have been uniquely and negatively impacted by the pandemic, and are likely to bear the brunt of recovery for many years to come.

Surveying the experiences of young people, the NYCA found many all too common stories of hardship and exhaustion. 


Kirra, 21 years old, says “I’m worried about the rate lowering because it will negatively impact my already unstable living situation and the freedom I have in day to day activities.”

“Between paying rent, bills, groceries, fuel, transport, I can’t afford to receive the treatment I need to manage my chronic illness while trying to study and work. I am continually forced to choose between these basic needs and my health and wellbeing,” says Sapodia, 26 years old. 


She explains, “There’s a toll on mental health that can feel almost unbearable at times. Your personal relationships become strained, you can’t go out and do things you enjoy to counterbalance the negative feelings, because you can’t afford it. It becomes a cycle of feeling stuck and isolated, of living in despair.”

The paper is the culmination of two years research and engagement with more than 1200 experts, organisations and young people around Australia, and is one of a series of policy papers to be released by the NYCA that propose models for how young people could be better prepared and supported in their transition from school to work. It is part of a suite of strategies that combined to create a national strategy for young people – the Youth Futures Guarantee – and a stronger future for Australia. 


The NYCA believes this proposal will create a pathway to ensure young people are better prepared for employment, encourage greater use of incentives for work or study, reduce youth poverty, reduce youth homelessness and lower debt amongst young people. 


Sophie Johnston, NYCA Youth Commissioner; Major David Eldridge, NYCA Commission Chair; and young people on income support are available for interview upon request.


Images can be supplied.


Please contact NYCA Digital Engagement Manager Nina Roxburgh for more information.