MIA reaction to government welfare proposal regarding rent payments

YVONNE Wilson is in two minds about a new government proposal to take rent payments out of welfare cheques before the money can be spent elsewhere. 

Ms Wilson is from the Linking Communities Network, which services the Riverina in areas like homelessness and welfare. 

This week the federal government announced pubic housing tenants would have rent taken from their welfare payments under new plan from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. 

According to the government there are currently around 9000 social housing renters who owe more than three weeks rent. 

Ms Wilson said on one hand the idea was a good one, but she found it hard to support an initiative that “forced” people to do something. 

“With our services we already actively encourage people to have their rent taken out first when it comes to their Centrelink payments,” she said. 

“It does have to be a request from the tenant, but they can choose to have the money first directed to the landlord or real estate … those who rent privately can also have the money automatically transferred once it’s paid. 

“It is important because we’re in the game of wanting to prevent homelessness. 

“However, whenever the government comes in and ‘forces’ this I don’t like it, but I certainly understand where they are coming from.”

Through the plan, titled the Automatic Rent Deduction Scheme, would aim to stop people on welfare prioritising other purchases over their rent. 

Ms Wilson said it was becoming harder and harder for residents of all walks of life to keep up with their bills, no matter their circumstance. 

“People that aren’t on welfare are struggling to pay their rent, their power bills … it’s very hard out there,” she said. 

“We see people from two income families that are finding it hard to keep up. Everything keeps going up. It’s not going down.

“Even if you take the rent out first … how does the next bill get paid? As I said our first priority is to have a roof over peoples’ heads, but it can snowball as well. The rent might be paid, but the power might get turned off.”

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