Salvos Snapshot of Aussie Poverty
21 May 2014 at 10:26 am
A nationwide survey of about 2,500 Salvation Army welfare clients reveals a harrowing snapshot of the realities of daily life for those living on the margins with 1 in 4 people unable to afford a substantial meal at least once a day.
The Salvation Army released the findings of its annual Economic and Social Impact Survey (ESIS) in the lead up to this weekend’s Red Shield Appeal Doorknock.
The Salvos says they are gravely concerned the Federal Government has ignored the needs of the most vulnerable Australians in the search for budget savings.
“Of particular concern is the $7 Medicare co-contribution fee, which ignores the economic circumstances of the poor,” Dr Bruce Redman of The Salvation Army said.
“The reality of life for those we assist is that 24 per cent of those surveyed for our ESIS report already couldn’t afford medical treatment when needed, and 34 per cent were unable to buy medicines prescribed by the doctor. The $7 fee might just tip more of them over into avoiding a basic doctor’s visit or essential pathology.
“While for most Australians a fee of $7 might not sound like much, for someone who lives on less than $35 per day, including their housing costs, this is yet another burden on their already fragile financial situation.
“Twenty-nine per cent of those we surveyed said they already did not have a secure or decent home, and 14 per cent were homeless or lived in unstable accommodation. A significantly higher proportion of Newstart recipients were homeless or in unstable accommodation (26 per cent) compared to the full population of those surveyed (14 per cent).”
The Salvation Army’s survey of 2485 clients across 237 Salvation Army community support services found that many are already struggling to afford basic necessities for themselves and their families:
1 in 4 is unable to afford a substantial meal at least once a day;
28 per cent said they have had to live without heating in at least one room in the house throughout winter;
38 per cent of participants did not have regular social contact with people, leading to a feeling of isolation and loneliness, with 47 per cent reporting they were unable to find someone to help them when needed; and
91 per cent of respondents had limited or no savings for emergencies.
The Salvation Army says another area of concern is the announced changes to the Newstart and Youth Allowance payments, with job seekers under the age of 30 facing far more stringent requirements.
“The realities of unemployment can be incredibly complex, with many of those we assist facing multiple barriers to employment. For example, 38 per cent of those we surveyed had health problems or disabilities as barriers; 30 per cent had responsibilities as parents or carers that made job seeking more difficult; for 12 per cent, age was a barrier (too old or too young); 11 per cent didn’t have the education, training or skills required; and 9 per cent didn’t have enough work experience,” Dr Redman said.
“We are also concerned the budget did not specify ongoing funding commitments in the areas of emergency relief (community welfare services) and financial counselling which are fundamental to The Salvation Army’s support of disadvantaged and marginalised Australians.
“The reality is that people on low incomes are not weighing up the economics of whether or not they will go on an overseas holiday, but instead they will be weighing up whether or not they have the money to see the doctor when necessary or using that $7 to pay for bread to feed themselves or their family for the week. When individuals and families live at or below the poverty-line, these are the sorts of economic decisions they are forced to make.
“Added pressures on families generally, including cuts to family benefits and increasing fuel costs, could mean a flow on effect to organisations like ours and more people turning up for assistance at a range of our services, including homelessness services, welfare services and financial counselling.
“People are regularly going without items, services and activities that are part of everyday living and important for full participation in community life such as adequate standards of housing, educational resources and activities for children, access to health and a capacity to engage in social activities.
“The national target for the Red Shield Appeal Doorknock weekend is $10 million, part of an overall Red Shield Appeal target of $80 million."