The cost of living in lockdown is taking those on low incomes to the brink

By YWCA Australia

The exclusion of people on the lowest incomes from disaster relief payments is pushing many living in lockdown to breaking point, a new survey from ACOSS has revealed. The September update of the ‘Locked out in Lockdown’ survey found 96% of respondents were struggling with the cost of living and almost half (41.5%) were at risk of homelessness due to the high cost of housing.   

“[I’m] basically homeless staying with a friend. I cannot afford rent, which starts at $290 [per] week.”  

– Woman in Victoria 

Women in particular are falling behind. Women are overrepresented among people receiving income support payments yet are receiving the least support from COVID Disaster Payments – two thirds of the recipients of these payments are men. This is in stark contrast to 2020 where the Coronavirus Supplement mostly benefited women. 

Compared with last year when everyone receiving unemployment and related payments was provided extra support, this year more than 80 per cent are seriously struggling to survive,” said ACOSS Program Director – Social Security, Charmaine Crowe. 

This lack of relief is particularly hurting single parents and women with illnesses or disability who are either unable to engage in paid work, or struggle to get paid work at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic. 

YWCA Australia CEO Michelle Phillips called for relief payments to be extended to everyone receiving income support payments. 

“The cost of housing is pushing those on low incomes, especially women, to the brink. We support the call from ACOSS for an extension of the COVID Disaster Payments and an increase to Commonwealth Rent Assistance.  

“We know the effects of the pandemic will be felt for years to come and women, particularly young women should not be further disadvantaged. We must urgently address the shortfall of supply of affordable housing, and that starts with an increase in funding” Ms. Phillips said. 

Key findings from the survey: 

  • 96 per cent are struggling with living costs 
  • 85 per cent are ineligible for the COVID disaster payments 
  • 41.5 per cent are at risk of homelessness 
  • 40 per cent feel less safe 

Read the full findings here.

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