Mutual obligation moratorium needed for seniors on Newstart

23 Jul 2020

Posted March 19, 2020

Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie says the Federal Government needs to grant an immediate 12-week moratorium on the volunteering, education or work-search requirements for Newstart recipients over the age of 60 years, given the guidelines for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Federal Member for Mayo has written to the Employment Minister, Senator Michaelia Cash, to request the blanket exemption to the “Mutual Obligation Requirements” for all Newstart recipients over 60 and all recipients who have documented existing medical conditions.

“I have been contacted by a number of older residents on Newstart who are deeply concerned that they cannot meet the Government’s ‘mutual obligation requirements’ for receiving income support as the fall-out from COVID-19 precautions affect our community,” Rebekha said.

“These older Australians are not only fearful of contracting the coronavirus whilst undertaking their volunteering activities, they are also frightened they could lose their Centrelink payments if they elect to self-isolate for their own wellbeing.

“Newstart recipients who have medical conditions can apply for exemptions if they have a medical certificate and they can also apply for an exemption if the organisation where they volunteer has to close for some reason – but they have to apply.

“The Government messaging about travel restrictions, social distancing, cancelling public gatherings and self-quarantine is constantly changing and you can see the community anxiety reflected not only in our supermarket aisles but in the world economic markets.

“Events are being cancelled, employees are being sent home to work and non-essential enterprises such as charity shops are closing their doors.

“Newstart recipients are some of Australia’s most vulnerable citizens, and none more so than those approaching retirement age with existing medical conditions who meet their mutual obligation requirements through volunteering.

“The Federal Government should be doing all it can to support all Australians during this pandemic and I believe providing a blanket 12-week moratorium for Newstart recipients over the age of 60 years will relieve stress and allow a more vulnerable age group in our community to practice appropriate social distancing.”

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