By MAMAMIA NEWS
Could you live on $35 a day? That’s $35 dollars for everything. All your expenses. Rent. Bills. Food. Transport. Clothing. Your kids’ clothing. Toiletries. Your kids’ toiletries.
That’s how much Barbara, a single mother, is currently living on. She has been unemployed for two months, because of a painful bone condition that meant she had to give up her job working as patient carer at a children’s hospital.
Her medicine costs around $40 a month after subsidies. Once her rent and utilities are taken out, she is left with around $45 a week to pay for everything else.
Under the Federal Government’s Newstart allowance, the $35 a day is how much single unemployed people in Australia are entitled to.
ABC’s Four Corners ran a story on Monday night, in which they spoke to welfare agencies and individuals surviving on the Newstart payments.
This year, more than 63,000 single parents were moved onto Newstart from their previous government payments – which meant that their payments dropped by up to $65 per week. For single parents especially, the change to the Newstart payments has had a devastating effect on their finances – and their ability to lead a normal life.
Australia’s economy is certainly not all doom and gloom, and our unemployment rate is currently the envy of the world: unemployment is at 5.4%, which is about half that seen in most of Europe. But that still means that 5.4% of the population doesn’t have a steady job, or a regular income. 5.4% of the population doesn’t have the money to look after themselves – or their families.
During the program, we see Barbara being offered a $60 supermarket gift voucher from a welfare centre – an offer which makes her very emotional. Soon, the audience sees why this gesture meant so much to her.
For Barbara, things like toiletries and toilet paper are almost luxuries – and can be difficult to afford when there are more immediate concerns, such as buying food.
The extra assistance the gift voucher provides allows Barbara to buy the essentials for the next fortnight for her family – as well as buying deodorant and body spray for her daughter. She sees these as a special treat.
Forget asking whether you could live on $35 a day. Try asking yourself how you would feel if you usually could not afford to buy your teenage daughter a can of deodorant.
Barbara is working hard to improve her situation, and is trying to be pragmatic about her current circumstances. She says, “in the meantime I just have to accept that this is the situation I’m in and do the best I can with what I’ve got, and the help through the Spier Centre and places like that. If it wasn’t for them then I, I really truly would be stuck. Um, I had a lot of support and help from my family and friends, and without them I, I really don’t know how I would a managed, so that’s how I survive.”