More than a third of people on JobSeeker prior to the pandemic were left to live on less than $7 a day after they had paid for accommodation, a new welfare report has found.
Anglicare Australia on Tuesday released its report which surveyed more than 600 welfare recipients about differences in living standards since the COVID-19 supplement was introduced.
The report comes as the Senate is due to debate the legislation which will extend the COVID-19 supplement, at a lower rate, to the end of March 2021.
The COVID-19 supplement was introduced in March this year at $550 per fortnight, and is currently at $250 per fortnight until the end of December.
If the legislation passes the Senate, the supplement will be paid at $150 per fortnight on top of the usual JobSeeker or other welfare payment until March 31.
The ultimate finding of the Anglicare report was that the JobSeeker payment needed to be permanently increased as this would assist people to both find more secure housing and find employment.
Labor and the Greens both support a permanently increased JobSeeker base rate.
Prior to the supplement being introduced 41 per cent of those surveyed were forced to live on less than $7 a day after paying rent or a mortgage. Almost 60 per cent of welfare recipients were left with less than $14 a day to live on after paying for accommodation.
After the supplement was introduced the amount of those left with $7 a day dropped to 18 per cent.
Almost three-quarters of people (72 per cent) reported regularly skipping meals each week prior to March.
Almost two-thirds of respondents (58 per cent) believed that if the increased payments were made permanent they could move into more stable accommodation.
Anglicare Australia chief executive Kasy Chambers said the report's findings were more evidence Australia's welfare system required an overhaul.
"It should be a scandal that so many people were forced to skip meals so often," Ms Chambers said.
"Some people we surveyed were couch surfing and skipping meals every day. With so little money, they simply had no choice.
"The government must raise the rate for good to stop condemning these Australians, and their children, to a life of poverty."
The report also examined the obligations associated with Centrelink payments and found that they were largely pointless and failed to secure work for welfare recipients.
The report's findings suggested that fulfilling mutual obligations prevented more than half of those surveyed from studying and gaining new skills for employment. It also made it harder for almost 30 per cent of people to spend time with friends and family and almost 40 per cent from caring for a sick or elderly relative.
Only 11 per cent of respondents believed Centrelink obligations were helping them find paid work and 13 per cent felt they were being supported by Centrelink to find work.
Three-quarters of those surveyed said they were willing to do activities they believed were fair and if they believed they would lead to work, but 79 per cent of them felt the current Centrelink obligations were pointless.
"We have a system that forces people to run a gauntlet of interviews, reporting, and administration that isn't leading to work," Ms Chambers said.
"Lynchpins of the system, like Work for the Dole and Jobactive, have repeatedly been shown to fail, and they waste millions of dollars a year.
"It's time to stop punishing people for being out of work, and start giving them the support they need."