Image: Free Australian Stock Images
Over the weekend, I came across a blog post titled, “November Month of Australia.”
Intrigued for some unknown reason, I read the article. The writer interspersed a few facts about Australia from Wikipedia along with casual rapport building chit chat for the blog audience.
A few of the facts mentioned were; Australia is home to 22.7 million people, it has the highest number of reptiles and it’s a wealthy country.
Stay with me here, this gets interesting.
The writer asked if readers from Australia would leave a comment to mention further facts about their country.
One commenter from Australia agreed, Australia was a wealthy country by most standards. The commenter explained further; they get well paid salaries (by law) and they have a brilliant welfare system for those looking for work and those unable to work. The commenter stated “Australia is an absolutely amazing country for the care provided to its citizens.”
Wow! I was impressed and curious. Could this be true, I wondered. I searched for some statistics about Australia’s social system and this is what I found.
According to an article posted on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website, the average weekly household income from government pensions and allowances for the 2009-10 year was $557.
Australia has a wide variety of benefits available to individuals and families that include: age pensions, disability and caregiver payments, unemployment and study payments, and family support payments. They also provide allowances for sickness, mobility, bereavement, newstart, and partners. Additional benefits include: pensioner education supplements, concession cards supplements and allowances, and health benefits.
While the average of all types of government pensions and allowance was $557 per week (as mentioned), the breakdown for the various pensions was as follows;
Age pension payments accounted for an average of $522 per week, disability and carer payments $652, unemployment and study payments $689, family support payments $672 and other payments and allowances $592 per week.
Did I mention the above payments are per Week?
So – I was curious. What would I receive as a disabled person living in Australia?
I found a pdf document published by Human Services.gov.au detailing all resources available and I made a rough calculation based on the information.
The payment rate for disability support is $712 per fortnight (exactly two weeks). Earned working income of up to $152 per fortnight is allowed. Anything over $152 is deducted at .50 cent per $1 over $152. Rent assistance up to $121 per fortnight based on if your rent payments are more than $268.73 fortnightly.
What do these numbers translate into on a monthly basis? $2,134.00 AUD converted to CDN $ at 1.029403 would be the Canadian equivalent of $2,218.09 per Month.
In addition, I would be eligible to receive; Education Entry Payment, Mobility Allowance, a Pensioner Concession Card (for utilities, telephone bills, public transit fares, vehicle registration, medicines, property & water taxes and other necessities for living in society) and a Pensioner Education Supplement. If I lived in a remote area, I would be eligible for the Remote Area Allowance.
As it stands, here in the province of Ontario, a disabled person receives less than half that amount to a maximum of $1064 per month with very few options (if any) for additional benefits and allowances.
In fact, the Ontario government slashed a key benefit that helps to prevent homelessness. Once, a mandatory payment paid directly to individuals and families in a 24-month period for housing related supports, the Community Start-Up and Housing Maintenance Allowance is cut right out of the budget effective January 1, 2013.
In Ontario, disabled people are doing somewhat better than those who are unemployed and who miss out on qualifying for Employment Insurance. Ontarian’s who don’t qualify for disability and Employment Insurance are allowed up to a maximum of $599 per month as Ontario Works recipients.
At $599 per month, an individual is living in the deepest poverty well below the outdated 2008 poverty level benchmark of $18,582.
Granted, it is costly to live in some parts of Australia, but so is Toronto and surrounding cities are following suit. Affordable housing is another issue.
Comparing what I’ve uncovered of Australia’s welfare system (without speaking directly to Human Services personnel), the Australian reader’s comment “they have a brilliant welfare system” seems to be true, in my view.
Still, you will find some dissatisfaction with the social welfare payment rates in Australia.
A 2011 article in The Sydney Morning Herald advocates an increase of $50 per week to the Newstart Allowance rate of $234 a week for those unemployed. The government website indicates the Newstart Allowance is for those looking for work, studying or job-training. The website also mentions additional services and benefits may be available.
All in all, I’d say, from my perspective, I’d have to agree with the reader from Australia who declared “Australia is an absolutely amazing country for the care provided to its citizens,” followed, of course, by The Region of Waterloo and its amazing community partners.