Vulnerable families forced to choose between heating and eating
7 June 2019 at 5:10 pm
More than 80 per cent of disadvantaged families in Perth cannot afford to buy healthy food for their children, new research shows.
The 100 Families WA study revealed many struggling parents were going without food so their children could eat.
The survey of 400 Perth families receiving support from a community services agency found 17 per cent of parents regularly went without food for an entire day because they didn’t have enough money, while 13 per cent of kids were forced to skip meals.
Western Australian Council of Social Service CEO Louise Giolitto said the findings painted a stark, but not surprising, picture of entrenched poverty in Australia.
“The data confirms that the key driver of food insecurity is poverty – low income and inadequate social security payments,” Giolitto said.
“Some households are being forced to choose between heating and eating, and this is resulting in parents who are going without meals so that their children are not hungry.
“It’s very concerning, given the range of consequences food insecurity has on social isolation, health, education, and work outcomes.”
100 Families WA is a collaborative research project between eight not-for-profit community service providers and The University of Western Australia (UWA), which aims to understand the lived experience of poverty, entrenched disadvantage and social exclusion.
As well as not being able to provide their kids with a balanced diet, many parents also reported not being able to afford to buy presents for their kids, while 70 per cent said they could not afford to go on holiday.
Some survey participants admitted they did not always use available services when they needed them.
“[I did] not want to be greedy or a burden,” one person said.
“[I was] not able to take time from work to access services,” another added.
Professor Paul Flatau, director of the Centre for Social Impact UWA and lead researcher, said the end goal of the study was to make a difference to the lives of families by supporting them to break free of entrenched disadvantage.
He told Pro Bono News the study showed the shocking human face of poverty.
“Disadvantage has a very human face around the inability to afford the essentials of life that we often take for granted,” Flatau said.
“We also found some level of social isolation as well, with 30 per cent of the participants saying they did not feel they had someone to turn to for support.”
He said these results highlighted a failure of Australia’s social security net to protect society’s most vulnerable.
“Most of the findings here come from the fact the Australian income support system is not providing the financial base for people to get by,” he said.
“Off course all Australians should be going without hunger, but you also should be able to afford a balanced diet and do things like go on a holiday every now and then.”
The project will be undertaking fortnightly interviews with 100 of the families from the study and finish in 2022.