A SUPPORT service has warned Echuca residents under financial stress could become homeless if a controversial Welfare Reform Bill passes through Parliament this week.
The Coalition’s Welfare Reform package includes a raft of measures designed to strip Centrelink payments from many people who are already on the brink of homelessness.
The package includes proposals that will blow out the length of time people wait before receiving payments and remove income protection measures for women trying to flee family violence.
Anglicare Victoria regional director Francis Lynch said the service would have serious concerns if the welfare reform bill passed.
‘‘Particularly if jobseekers are cut off from their payments for up to four weeks,’’ he said.
‘‘For a person already experiencing extreme hardship, the impact of having no income for a month could lead to extreme financial and mental stress, as well as pushing people living on the edge into homelessness, which is already a widespread issue in Echuca.
‘‘I’m also concerned about the strain this may have on local services which would be supporting even more people who have no income for a period of time.
‘‘It’s not just vulnerable individuals who would be affected – there are likely to be kids in families who will also experience detrimental effects should the welfare reform bill pass.’’
The Nick Xenophon Team is in negotiations with the Coalition, seeking to ease the Bill’s passage through Parliament.
But the savings measures are a false economy, according to Homelessness Australia.
‘‘These welfare reforms may save money in the short-term, but will only increase costs in homelessness and housing support, as people who could have managed on their own are plunged into crisis and need homelessness help,’’ chair Jenny Smith said.
‘‘If passed, the new measure will force people to live without any income for weeks, making it impossible to pay the rent, and most certainly pushing thousands into homelessness. Our agencies are already struggling to cope with demand.
‘‘The people who will be affected are only just managing to keep their head above water as it is, and tightening the vice on their income will be the thing that pushes some under.’’