Survey Of 892 young people on Youth Allowance and Newstart reveals shocking rates of deprivation

The National Union of Students, YOUNG Campaigns, and the Australian Council of Social Service have today launched a joint report exposing the alarming rates of deprivation among young people currently receiving Youth Allowance and Newstart.

The report is the result of a survey 892 people aged between 16-30 who are currently receiving an allowance.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • over 60% of respondents have less than $14 a day left after paying their rent,
  • over half have couched-surfed or used other unstable forms of accommodation,
  • more than 9 in 10 skip meals
  • more than 1 in 3 have withdrawn from their studies because of a lack of funds

These results are yet another shocking wake-up call for the government to immediately raise Youth Allowance, Newstart, and other related payments by at least $75 per week. It is time for the government to listen to the evidence; the people on Youth Allowance and Newtart who are sharing their stories; and the wider community that strongly supports raising the rate, and ending the 25-year freeze to these income support payments.

Cat Nadel from YOUNG Campaigns said:

“It is unacceptable that any young person on these payments is forced to couchsurf or sleep on the streets. Newstart and Youth Allowance is supposed to be a safety net that allows us to focus on our studies or on finding paid work. Instead it is holding us in poverty.

“We are hearing stories of young people skipping their antidepressants and birth control because they can’t afford it on Youth Allowance.

“It is physically impossible to live a normal, healthy life on these low payments. That’s why so many young people are standing up and sharing our stories. “We’re calling on the government to #RaiseTheRate.”

Adriana Malavisi from the National Union of Students:

“We’ve known that the rates of Youth Allowance and Newstart are inadequate for quite some time, but the results of this survey have exposed the types of situations that it puts young people in.”

“Young people are living in unsafe and insecure homes, they’re skipping meals every day, and it’s affecting their studies. It’s simply not good enough”

“Students should not be forced to live in poverty while studying. We’ve heard stories of

students not being able to afford transport to university or study materials, and struggling to complete their course. We’ve seen that students have been forced to withdraw from their studies due to poverty. It’s time for the government to support young people.”

“These young people have also told stories of not being able to afford medication or treatment for illness or disability. No one should have to face these conditions. We need a more compassionate welfare safety net, and it needs to start with a raise to the rate of Newstart and Youth Allowance.”

Key Findings

Rent And Housing

  • 62% had less than $100 per week left after rent, with 37% having less than $50 a week left.
  • 51% of participants have had to couch-surf or use other forms of unstable accommodation.

“I lived in my car for six months because I couldn’t afford my rent.” – 21 year old on Youth Allowance.


  • 90% of participants said they had to skip at least one meal a week.
  • 22% of participants said that they had to skip meals every day, with almost 30% of participants reporting that they skipped 6 or more meals every week.

“Sometimes I can’t focus due to hunger, because travelling to class used money I needed for groceries.” – 23 year old on Youth Allowance.

Study Costs

  • 80% of participants have struggled with costs for essential study items and course fees.
  • 35% of participants have had to withdraw from studies due to financial stress.

Mental Health

  • 92% of participants said that the low rate of payments made them feel isolated.
  • 90% of participants said it negatively impacted their mental health.

“I haven’t been able to afford my antidepressants on occasion, I can’t afford to socialize with my friends, I have to constantly borrow money from people which damages our relationships.” – 20 year old on Youth Allowance.

Medical And Dental

  • 73% of participants said they struggled accessing essential services, such as filling prescriptions, or seeing much-needed specialists. 74% of participants said it had been over a year since they saw a dentist.
  • 48% said it had been more than 2 years.

“I am currently on a waiting list to have all four of my wisdom teeth removed via surgery as they were causing an immense amount of pain. The medication prescribed for this was very expensive, but the surgery itself exceeded $4,000. Which I couldn’t pay, so I now have to wait a minimum of 1.5 years.” -19 year old on Youth Allowance.”

Read the report:

Starved Of Opportunity – Young People’s Experience Of Youth Allowance An…

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