Changes to Jobseeker payments and conditions raise concern among students, Chelsea Shepherd reports. (Image source: Getty Images)

By Chelsea Shepherd | @Chelsea15183902

From April 1 the Federal Government will increase weekly Jobseeker payments by $50, while the coronavirus supplement payment will be scrapped.

The $150 fortnightly supplement is provided to anyone who is claiming welfare payments from Centrelink.

The permanent $50 increase will also apply to the Abstudy, Youth Allowance, Austudy and parenting payments, resulting in a nine billion dollar cost over four years.

These changes will affect nearly 2 million Australians and will be the single biggest increase in welfare payments since the 1980s.

Not only are there financial changes, but also changes to the conditions of the payments.

Currently it is a condition that job seekers must apply for eight jobs in a relevant field per month, from April 1 that number will increase to 15.

More controversially, employers will be able to report job seekers to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment for not accepting suitable jobs.

This could result in financial penalties for the job seeker.

Although these new conditions to the job seeker scheme are in place to catch out “dole bludgers”, it’s important to remember that the payment is there to support people seeking employment, which often includes students.

University student, Robyn Stevenson understands the motive behind the Government’s new conditions to the jobseeker payment, however feels hard done by.

“I think that the payment increase is really important for some people, and it’s a good thing. However, I also think it needs to be carefully sorted and only people who really cannot survive should get it- not people who don’t need it,” Robyn said.

“As a student, I have a casual job, I also get jobseeker because I don’t get paid over the minimum wage threshold. An increase in job applications, where I need to find two or more jobs in order to not get reported would really stress me out and I think I would struggle with uni because of it.”

The changes to the job seeker payment adds extra unnecessary stress on students who are trying to balance both work and university as well as trying to survive financially.

“At the moment, I struggle applying for 4 jobs a fortnight. There aren’t any available jobs in the area I’m studying in and any other jobs are so far out of my area or expertise that it’s not worth applying.”

“However, I also understand that the government doesn’t want people to bludge through the payments without putting in the effort to get a job,” Robyn said.

President of the University of South Australia Student Union (USASA), Noah Beckmann says that students are already expressing concerns about the changes.

“Students across Australia have been engaging with the National Union of Students Welfare Department campaign showing how these changes will affect them, from stating they’d need to couch surf to survive, or skip meals to get by.” Noah said.

“Last year we had students coming in for financial counselling and emergency grants who were literally days away from homelessness.”

Noah suggests there is a skewed power balance that exists between employers and employees and being able to report applicants who turn down jobs could be dangerous.

“It neglects to acknowledge that there are risks involved in accepting employment and further drives this false narrative of the lazy student or young person who doesn’t want to work.”

“People may turn down employment for a variety of reasons and this reporting policy does nothing to address the nuance that can be present in these situations.” Noah said.

These changes aren’t the only concern with Centrelink, Noah believes the age of independence is too high.

“Currently its set at 22, it’s the view of the National Union of Students, a body which USASA affiliates to, that it should be lowered to 18.”

“Students moving out of home to attend university can be denied access to income support based on a parent or partner’s income.”

“This is not only arbitrary, but dangerous. A liveable wage is essential, so students are not skipping meals, going without medication, sleeping rough or couch surfing,” Noah said.

The changes to Jobseeker have proven to be dangerous for many students doing it tough, it remains to be seen what more will be done to support them in this current climate.