Increase in Child Poverty a National 'Shame'
16 October 2016 at 5:17 pm
Welfare peak body the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has released a new report showing that 731,300 children, or 17.4 per cent of all children in Australia, are living in poverty, an increase of 2 per cent over the past 10 years (from 2004 to 2014).
The report found that nearly three million people were living in poverty in Australia in 2014, or 13.3 per cent of the general population.
ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said the overall picture from the last decade was one of persistent and entrenched poverty across the community with an increase in child poverty.
“It is a national shame that after 25 years of economic growth, we have not done better at changing this trajectory and ensuring our most precious national resource, our children, are given the best possible start in life,” Goldie said.
“Those most at risk are children in lone parent families, who are more than three times likely to be living in poverty (40.6 per cent) than those from couple families (12.5 per cent). Since 2012, the poverty rate for children in lone parent families has gone up from 36.8 to 40.6 per cent.”
The Poverty in Australia Report 2016 was produced in partnership with the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of NSW, with the support of the Australian Communities Foundation (Social Justice Fund), St Vincent de Paul Society, Mission Australia and the Salvation Army.
Goldie said the housing profile of people below the poverty line highlighted the concentration of disadvantage in the rental market.
“The vast majority of people below the poverty line are in rental housing (59.7 per cent), with most in private rental housing (44.2 per cent). Only 15.5 per cent of people living below the poverty line were home-owners,” she said.
“The report confirms that people who are unemployed are at greatest risk of poverty, with 63.2 per cent living in poverty. Unsurprisingly, the majority of people below the poverty line relied on social security as their main source of income (57.3 per cent), but a significant proportion received wages as their main income (32 per cent). This indicates that having a job is no guarantee of keeping people above the breadline, especially if the job is low paying and insecure.
“Our report shows those doing it the toughest are overwhelmingly people living on the $38 a day Newstart payment, 55 per cent of whom are in poverty. This is followed by families on Parenting Payment (51.5 per cent), the majority of whom are lone parents with children.”
Goldie said the report was a further wake up call for the government to address the inadequacy of the lowest income support payments and bolster support to low income families through the family payments system.
“It is also a reminder that housing remains the biggest cost of living issue for households and must be addressed as a policy priority,” Goldie said.
“Newstart and Youth Allowance are $110 and $158 a week below the poverty line respectively. Along with improvements to training and employment supports, an increase to these payments of at least $50 a week would go some way to alleviating poverty and improve people’s chances of finding paid work.
“The alarming increase in child poverty revealed by this report should also act as an urgent appeal to senators to reject further cuts to family payments, currently before the upper house. The cuts would strip another $60 a week from single parent families. The current proposal to withhold Newstart support for young people for up to four weeks should also be rejected. Both proposals would likely lead to increased poverty.
“At the start of Anti-Poverty Week, we call on all political leaders to put reducing poverty at the centre of the policy agenda. This must include assessing the poverty impact of all major policy changes.”