People on the dole are made to feel like they're nothing, senators examining Newstart payments have heard.
Mark, who was only identified by his first name, told the committee on Friday the welfare system operated "to deter or to destroy but certainly not help".
Mark said his background as an award-winning journalist was not recognised when he went on Newstart five years ago.
"Once you get caught up in the system ... you're reminded very, very quickly how much your own background and professional history mean nothing," he said.
Mark said he was pushed onto welfare after a traumatic breakup.
"I counted the days waiting (for payment) and that's what you do on Newstart," Mark said.
There has been widespread pressure for a raise to the $40-a-day dole, which has barely budged in real terms for a quarter of a century.
The Australian Council of Social Service told the committee a boost to the payment would see a boost to the economy.
Chief executive Cassandra Goldie said she knew the politicians on the committee had come to parliament to do good things, and raising welfare payments would be one of the effective ways to fix national poverty rates.
"This is the best good thing you could do," Dr Goldie said.
Foodbank Australia said people in cashless welfare card trial sites were having difficulty accessing food in an "affordable and routine way".
Professional services giant KPMG has called for Newstart to rise from $277.85 per week for a single person to $370 per week, which would move it up to half the national minimum wage.
"It's a balance between making sure that you've got a level which satisfies material wellbeing and psychological wellbeing, and ensuring that you don't have a disincentive to work," KPMG's Grant Wardell-Johnson told the committee.
He said an inadequate welfare safety net enhanced people's fear about innovation, technology and their jobs.
KPMG has favoured increasing Newstart since 2016.
Mr Wardell-Johnson said he had been shocked to learn that about half the people on Newstart are aged over 45.
A friend of his was made redundant at the age of 55 after a long career in industry training.
"She went to more than 100 interviews before she got a job," he told senators.
"That's quite different from the image of the lazy 30-year-old or so, which I think is very much a misunderstanding of people on Newstart."
The Morrison government has rejected calls to raise Newstart, with a multi-agency submission to the hearing saying the government's focus was on strengthening the budget.
Australian Associated Press