Our COVID-19-related social justice measures
The massive shock of COVID-19 presents both huge risks and huge opportunities for Australia. Those among us with the fewest resources available are most vulnerable now and will be into the future.
The policy choices made during this crisis and as we emerge out the other side, can deliver a better, more equitable and sustainable future for our nation. BSL is currently advocating on a range of social justice issues requiring action right now, as well as measures needed to support recovery in the longer term.
Immediate key issues
BSL continues to advocate for people seeking asylum and non-resident migrants to be given access to social security, wage subsidies (JobKeeper) and Medicare. Our programs are seeing people displaced from employment with no safety net to fall back on. BSL advocates on this directly and through joining forces with the Migrant Workers Centre and the Refugee Council of Australia.
BSL is also actively joining the chorus of voices calling upon the Federal Government to maintain the current coronavirus supplement level of the JobSeeker allowance.
Formerly known as Newstart, JobSeeker is the main social security support for those who are unemployed and was effectively doubled to assist people to cope during the coronavirus.
Before the supplement was introduced, it was just $40 per day - well below the poverty line. The government intends to reduce and then stop the supplement from end September back to sub-poverty level.
Higher concessions/relief payments on energy bills for low-income households. More time at home will mean higher energy bills. Low-income households avoiding using the heating to keep bills down are at higher risk of respiratory health issues. BSL has been raising the subject of energy costs with both the federal and Victorian governments and had sector partners co-badge a letter on this point.
Keeping people housed
BSL welcomes the Victorian government’s package to protect renters and landlords. Close monitoring and enforcement of the moratorium on rent increases and evictions are needed during the crisis. Addressing homelessness remains critical.
We are partnering with the Victorian government, St Vincent’s Hospital and Launch Housing to repurpose our former aged care residence as pop-up housing for people experiencing homelessness who are affected by COVID-19.
Supporting people into work
Young people’s employment prospects are being hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis. BSL is calling for the federally funded Transition to Work program to be urgently expanded to enable all 15 to 24-year-olds not fully engaged in work or study to receive assistance. .
The Changing People’s Lives Squared (CPL Squared) project surveyed the experiences of BSL staff and participants to see how COVID-19 has impacted their lives and how best to support staff and program participants during a crisis.