Dole recipients swell in southern suburbs

EXCLUSIVE, Phoebe Wearne, CanberraThe West Australian
VideoThe latest Social Services Department figures show the number of West Australians claiming the dole has increased 23.5 per cent in two years.

Recession-like job losses in WA have fuelled a spike in people living off unemployment benefits with jobless ranks swelling by up to 46 per cent in pockets of Perth since full-time employment peaked two years ago.

The latest Social Services Department figures show the number of West Australians claiming unemployment benefits rose from 63,354 to 78,211 — a 23.5 per cent increase.

They also reveal a souring of fortunes in Perth’s south, with Kwinana, Rockingham and Armadale among the top six local government areas ranked by increase in those on unemployment benefits.

More than 1200 residents in the City of Kwinana relied on the dole in December 2014 but a 36.4 per cent jump in jobless pushed it to 1774 by September last year.

The number of jobseekers on welfare grew 39.5 per cent to 4177 in Rockingham and 35.6 per cent to 3369 in the City of Armadale.

In the north, Wanneroo faced a 39.46 per cent increase, to 5718.

The Shire of Serpentine-Jarrahdale, which had a big fly-in, fly-out workforce during the boom, had a 65.42 per cent increase over the period.

A single adult on Newstart Allowance, which provides financial help to those looking for work, gets about $264 a week.

WA Council of Social Service chief executive Louise Giolitto said the figures were unfortunately not surprising, with WA topping the nation in unemployment, youth unemployment rates and the widest poverty gap.

“The feedback we are getting, especially in financial counselling and emergency relief, is the growing number of people joining the queue trying to get support and services,” she said.

“Organisations are being inundated, especially in the financial counselling space, by people who have never traditionally sought out or needed support in the past, who have found themselves unemployed with very big mortgages and trying to finance and meet those mortgages.”

Ms Giolitto said there was evidence of big increases in demand for support services in Rockingham, Kwinana and Beeliar but the issue was widespread.

Newstart payments came under fire at a Senate inquiry in Canberra yesterday for being “absolutely inadequate” for covering the cost of living.

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