Susan Helyar: ''Households cutting down to one income will not be able to meet their expenses.''
The ACT's welfare services are gearing up for a surge in people seeking support ahead of what's expected to be a tough federal budget on Tuesday.
ACT Council of Social Service director Susan Helyar said cuts to public service employment would have a roll-on effect for Canberrans who were already struggling in an expensive city.
“The cost of living is high in Canberra - housing is expensive, insurance bills are going up, heating bills are a significant drain on household budgets because we are one of the coldest cities, and gaps in transport services means keeping a car on the road is a necessity for most households,” Ms Helyar said.
She said the prospect of job losses could be devastating for some families, and would lead to more Canberrans seeking help both financially and psychologically.
“In the short term the increase in demand will arise because households cutting down to one income will not be able to meet their expenses, so will seek help from already stretched emergency assistance and financial counselling services.
“In the longer term, we will see more people looking for housing assistance, seeking relationship and family support and dealing with consumer credit and other legal issues.
“Households who end up with no one in employment will be in dire circumstances. Unemployment benefits have not increased in almost 20 years. On these inadequate payments most people struggle to meet even their basic needs, let alone cover the expenses of retraining and keeping their car on the road so they can maximise their access to work.”
The national Councils of Social Service has been calling on the federal government to increase unemployment benefits by $50 per week for a number of years.
Ms Helyar said the need in Canberra would become even more urgent as the city faces further federal cuts.
ACT Treasurer Andrew Barr said the federal government needed to ensure Canberra remained a hub for the public service.
“The best thing the Commonwealth can do for Canberra is to support the public service through maintaining jobs and services here,” he said.
He also said he hoped the federal budget would include continued support for Canberra's national institutions.