News

Shepparton’s welfare groups concerned about JobKeeper cuts

By Madi Chwasta

Shepparton's welfare groups say the number of hungry people will be "exacerbated" when JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments are slashed in September.

The Federal Government plans to reduce the JobKeeper payment from $1500 to $1200 a fortnight, with payments to be cut again in 2021.

Those working less than 20 hours will receive $750 a fortnight from September, and $650 next year.

The JobSeeker payment will also drop from $1100 to $800 a fortnight in September.

Shepparton FoodShare president Rod Schubert said he appreciated the government's help but the vulnerable would be impacted when payments were reduced.

“It just means we'll have a lot more people who will have a lot less money to spend,” he said.

Mr Schubert said the number of people who needed help each day had fluctuated in the past few months but had stabilised in recent weeks.

He said the food distribution charity was short on staples, especially rice and pasta, and welcomed donations.

St Vincent de Paul's Mooroopna conference assistance centre president Margaret Campbell said she also anticipated a rise in people desperate for food, clothing and rental support in September.

“But we've always had a fairly high demand, for various reasons (including people suddenly out of work, victims of family violence, and asylum seekers who are ineligible for government support payments),” she said.

Ms Campbell said the Mooroopna conference — which is not government funded — had experienced difficulty coping with demand. Most St Vincent de Paul stores closed during the pandemic, which reduced the money distributed to conferences.

The organisation is also welcoming financial donations, as well as food and clothing.

A Federal Government spokesperson said Shepparton's emergency relief providers had reported being able to meet the increased demand.

“Emergency relief providers in Shepparton have advised the Department of Social Services they are not experiencing shortages of food relief,” the spokesperson said.

“While demand for support has increased, overall providers are reporting they are able to meet the demand.”

The Federal Government has provided more than $1 million to the Shepparton region's four emergency relief services: Community Information and Support Victoria, Kyabram Community and Learning, The Trustee for the Salvation Army (Victoria) Property Trust, and VincentCare Victoria.

“In response to the crisis the government has bolstered funding for the Shepparton region’s four emergency relief services by $300,000 bringing our total commitment in 2019-20 and 2020-21 to more than $1 million,” the spokesperson said.

“This funding will allow more than 3000 additional people in the Shepparton region to access emergency relief services which includes assistance for paying bills and buying other essentials such as food, clothing and petrol, and access to financial counselling.”

● Shepparton FoodShare is taking donations at Bicaro's Ristorante, 30 North St, Shepparton from Tuesday to Saturday between 5pm and 8pm, and Shepparton FoodShare, 30 Young St, Mooroopna from Monday to Thursday between 8am and 1pm.

● Financial donations can also be made at www.sheppartonfoodshare.org.au

● Financial donations and goods for St Vincent de Paul Mooroopna can be dropped off at 2 Northgate St, Mooroopna.

Donated goods are held in a room for 48 hours to ensure they are COVID-19 safe.