Young Australians have revealed the heartbreaking choices they are being forced to make as a bombshell report reveals many are living on just $13 a day.
Students told Daily Mail Australia they are forgoing medical treatment to buy food and begging family and friends for ‘donations’ while being crippled with anxiety as money pressures pile on top of study commitments.
Homelessness Australia this week released the findings of a study that revealed the average student tenant on Youth Allowance is left with just $13 a day after rent.
The two-year analysis compared students’ income to the rising cost of rent on a shared two-bedroom unit across the country.
While overall income support payments have increased 10 per cent in two years, rents have surged by 24 per cent, and a young person could spend now be spending 73 per cent of their income to share a two-bedroom unit.
Psychology student Neha, 21, said she struggled with cost of living pressures on Centrelink payments
Macquarie University psychology student Neha, 21, admitted money stress was piling up on students already anxious over study.
She said the cost-of-living crisis was regular topic of conversation among her friends.
‘The cost of everything just keeps going up,’ she said.
‘It’s really stressful. You just want to go out and enjoy a meal with friends but you have to be so money conscious, and that just adds to the anxiety for students who are already worried about assignments and other stuff.’
Neha said it was difficult navigating the red tape of applying for the Youth Allowance payment let alone living off it.
‘There’s so many steps you have to go through,’ she said.
She recently switched from the Youth Allowance payment to Jobseeker because her study load changed to part-time, but the opaque process has been challenging to navigate.
‘I appreciate the fact there is money available through these payments but it can be extremely frustrating at times,’ she said.
Peak Body Homelessness Australia has urged the federal government to increase Youth Allowance and Commonwealth Rent Assistance (stock image pictured)
Dan, 24, who is studying at Sydney’s University of Technology, said he had to sometimes choose between buying food, paying rent and medical expenses such as seeing a physiotherapist for an injury.
The medicinal chemistry student said more than half of his Centrelink payment went towards paying rent. He added that he was looking for work to supplement his income as the Youth Allowance was inadequate.
‘It covers my rent and utilities and that’s about it,’ he said.
Dan, who lives in Marrickville, in Sydney’s inner-west, said he cooks simple meals at home to save money.
‘I eat a lot of plain pasta, or vegetables – but not meat because it’s too expensive,’ he said.
He said payments such as Youth Allowance need to be raised ‘especially now the cost of everything has gone up’.
Medicinal chemistry student Dan said the Youth Allowance payment barely covered his rent and utilities (stock image pictured)
Sofia, 22, who moved out of home when she was 19, said money had been so tight she had to go to family and friends for help.
She had been receiving Youth Allowance before changing her study load part-time and applying for Jobseeker.
‘I’ve been going to friends and family for food donations,’ she said.
Sofia said she sometimes struggled to even meet her $200 per week rent requirement in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy.
‘Pretty much all my money goes on rent,’ she said.
‘Last week I basically had $2 to my name for five days.’
Melbourne student Sofia said she had recently tried to survive off ‘$2 for five days’ (stock image pictured)
Thrifty tricks young Australians are using to survive
Missing out on catching up with friends.
Not buying meat to cook.
Driving a car almost empty of fuel.
Avoiding the doctor or other medical specialists.
Getting food ‘donations’ from family and friends.
Sofia said she had cut back on seeing her friends, had driven her car with ‘next to no petrol’ and has ‘chronic back pain’ that she can’t afford to treat.
She works part-time as a disability support worker which sometimes requires her to travel long distances and can put ‘a lot of financial strain’ on her.
Sofia wants to see a system that works to support young people and is less difficult and ‘traumatic’ to navigate.
‘I end up crying when I call Centrelink because it just takes so much energy, and when you’re already pushing up-hill and you’re already tired, it’s really frustrating.’
The latest figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show that each year 39,300 children and young people aged 15-24 reach out to homelessness services for help.
Kate Colvin, CEO of Homelessness Australia, has urged the government to increase Youth Allowance and Commonwealth Rent Assistance.
‘Young people are making appalling decisions about what they can afford, including whether they can eat three meals a day,’ she said.
The Australian Council for Social Services (ACOSS) has called for income support payments to be increased to at least $76 a day, and rent assistance to be doubled.
ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie has urged Treasurer Jim Chalmers to act on these recommendations in the upcoming May Budget.
‘In this Budget the Treasurer has the chance to reduce poverty and suffering in this country,’ Dr Goldie said.
‘With three million people living in poverty in Australia, there is no time for delay.’
It is understood the government will not be lifting welfare payments in May’s budget, as Labor grapples with a $50 billion structural budget deficit and high inflation.