BUDGET: Young people bear brunt of changes

JOBLESS: Jaxon Ireland, 21, of Islington. Picture: Marina NeilLIFE for the Hunter’s young and unemployed will continue to get ‘‘harder and harder’’ under the federal government’s tough new welfare regime.
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Young people bore the brunt of Tuesday’s budget announcement, with the government unveiling a raft of changes to welfare that will make it much more difficult for young people to access unemployment benefits.

The changes include:

●Lifting the age of eligibility for Newstart from 22 to 25, meaning $96 less a fortnight for those who would have moved from Youth Allowance.

●Unemployed under-30s will have to wait six months to be eligible for Newstart benefits, and will only be able to claim for six months before the benefit is cut for another six months. The six-month cycle will continue until a person gets a job or turns 30.

●Reintroduction of work for the dole scheme means unemployed under-30s will do 25 hours a week while receiving benefits.

The measures are expected to save the budget $1.2billion over four years and according to Treasurer Joe Hockey are aimed at getting the young ‘‘earning or learning’’.

But the move has already sent a wave of fear through the Hunter’s under-30 population.

Jaxon Ireland, 21, from Islington, said not being able to access Newstart for another four years would mean struggling to find the ‘‘stability’’ he needs to get on his feet.

Mr Ireland is currently on an independent youth allowance and receives rent assistance – a total of $505 a fortnight. He pays $310 rent a fortnight, leaving him with less than $200 for food, bills and incidentals.

He said having roughly $50 to $100 more a fortnight would give him room to breathe.

‘‘At the moment I’m having to wait for next week’s payment to come in to cover this week’s costs, and it’s slowly draining away with each new bill and each new cost,’’ he said.

‘‘The government is doing all of this thinking it’s going to push people into jobs, without considering the other factors that go into it … I can’t really just say ‘I’m going to get a job today, and go get some money’, it doesn’t always work like that.’’

While not opposed to the work for the dole proposal, he said he hoped it would involve gaining experience in relevant jobs.

Doug Agnew, 22, from The Hill is worried about what will happen to him if he can’t find a job. Mr Agnew finished a business degree at the end of last year and is job-hunting.

He said the changes worried him because he wasn’t sure how long he would be out of work.

‘‘I’m applying for 10 jobs a day which is the most frustrating thing, I’m not sitting back waiting, it’s very frustrating and very worrying,’’ he said.

‘‘I applied to Centrelink last week and it’s going to be four weeks before anyone calls me, that was before the budget so I don’t know what’s going to happen now.

‘‘It’s definitely going to be a difficult thing to deal with, it’s going to get harder and harder for people.’’

The measures have been described by the head of Samaritans in Newcastle, Cec Shevels, as the ‘‘worst budget’’ he has seen in more than 40 years in the welfare industry.

‘‘I’ve never seen a budget this harsh, and I’ve never seen so much heavy lifting placed on young people,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s quite traumatic for young unemployed people… parents will have to support their children until they’re 30, and if you don’t have a family I don’t know what you’re going to do.’’