WA Families Struggling - Report
12 October 2012 at 2:15 pm
The Cost of Living 2012 report reveals that many WA households are struggling to survive. Photo: greens.org.au
Low income households in Western Australia are struggling to afford a basic standard of living, according to a new report by the Western Australian Council of Social Service (WACOSS).
The Cost of Living Report 2012 reveals that many families fall into this category, even though the financial position of the average household in WA has improved.
The Council’s analysis of the income and expenditure patterns of three different low income household types found that the weekly income of single parent families and unemployed singles is approximately $30 less than the weekly cost of the essentials needed to maintain a basic standard of life.
“Our findings indicate that there are many low income households in WA who are just one accident or a couple of missed pay-checks away from financial crisis,” WACOSS chief executive Irina Cattalini said.
“Unless we build the resilience of disadvantaged families to deal with unexpected financial shocks, the demand for emergency relief and homelessness services will continue to rise.
“The cost of housing stands out as the biggest single driver of financial hardship for low income households in WA.”
The report shows that WA households have experienced dramatic rises in utility costs in recent years and there have been significant rises across the measures of utility hardship, despite the fact that utility costs represent a comparatively smaller fraction of overall living costs for our model households.
WACOSS says that housing costs represent 30 to 40% of household expenditure for our model households, and rose 13.2% in the last financial year.
It says that the amount model households can afford to spend on rent is significantly less than the median rental price (around 85%), which raises serious questions about where they can afford to live.
“The consequence of the lack of affordable rental properties is that many families are forced to seek cheaper housing out on the fringes,” Cattalini said.
“When a household’s income falls $30 a week short, any increase in utility costs hurts the household budget.
“Given that utility costs only represent 3 to 5% of weekly household expenditure for our model households, rising rates of utility hardship in WA are better understood as an indicator of wider financial hardship and a product of transferred housing stress.”
The Cost of Living Report also highlights food stress and nutritional poverty as emerging issues for the Western Australian community.
“The clear gap between what low income households are spending on food and what they need to spend for a nutritious diet indicates that many families are being forced to make difficult decisions that compromise their health and wellbeing simply to make ends meet,” Cattalini said.
“We’re calling on the State Government to commit to better understanding food stress in WA, and to develop practical measures to reduce the long term impacts of nutritional poverty.
“While we have seen some recent tightening in some sectors of our economy, Western Australia remains one of the most affluent societies with one of the highest standards of living.
“Measures that make better use the benefits of our prosperity to lift the prospects of our most disadvantaged citizens will ultimately result in a more productive and more harmonious society,” she said.