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13% of Australians live in poverty: ACOSS:

It's Anti-Poverty Week and 13% of Australians live in poverty. It isn't right.
By Motherpedia
Date: October 15 2012
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Prominent Australians including the Reverend Tim Costello, Professor Fiona Stanley and Janet Holmes a Court and organisations including St Vincent de Paul, Anglicare Australia and the Salvation Army have called on the Federal Government to commit to a national development goal to reduce poverty in Australia.

This follows the release of a new report from the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) on Sunday which shows that almost 13 per cent (2.265 million people) of Australians live below the poverty line to coincide with Anti-Poverty week.

The organisations and individuals support a recommendation from ACOSS for an Australian National Development Index to measure poverty and to measure progress in reducing it.

The ACOSS report provides the most comprehensive picture of poverty in Australia since 2006 and shows that people who are unemployed, children (especially in lone parent families), and people whose main source of income is social security payments, are the groups most at risk of poverty.

"This report reveals that despite years of unprecedented growth and wealth creation, we have made little ground in combatting the scourge of poverty,” said Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS.

She said that 1 in 8 people overall and 1 in 6 children live below the poverty line.

For those whose main income is social security, the proportion living below the poverty line is 37% including more than half of people in households on Newstart Allowance.

“The low level of this payment means that when unemployment goes up as it did last month, more people are thrown into poverty,” Dr Goldie said.

“The Newstart Allowance has not been increased in real terms since 1994 so households relying on it have been falling further behind community living standards and into poverty.

"Two thirds of people on Newstart have been unemployed for more than a year and they clearly need more help than they are getting now from employment services. The Government only funds Job Services Australia providers an average of $500 to $1,100 a year to invest in training and work experience for this group.

The ACOSS report also shows that there are almost 600,000 children living in families below the poverty line. About half of those children are in sole parent families, and one quarter of people in sole parent families are living below the poverty line.

"This makes the Federal Government's recent cuts to payments for sole parents all the more disturbing. Under the changes passed in the Senate last week over 100,000 sole parents on the Parenting Payment will be between $60 and $100 a week poorer from January 2013 when those with children over eight years of age are dropped to the lower Newstart Allowance.

Supported by Costello, Stanley and others, ACOSS has urged the Federal and state governments to take steps in their next Budgets to reduce poverty by increasing income support for those in the deepest poverty, strengthening employment services for long-term unemployed people, and easing the high cost of housing for people on low incomes who rent privately.

"High priority should be given in the next Federal Budget to raising the Newstart Allowance by $50 per week for single people and sole parents, and the cuts to income support for sole parents should be reversed or at least delayed.

ACOSS believes there should be more investment in wage subsidies and training for people who are long term unemployed to help job prospects.

"Paid work is a key pathway out of poverty and investment is needed to stop recent increases in unemployment from becoming entrenched.

"To tackle poverty we also need urgent action to ease housing cost pressures, particularly for low income people who are renting privately. People on social security and those in very low paid work receive Rent Assistance to help with housing costs, but at a maximum of $70 a week this is less than a third of typical rents for flats in capital cities and mining towns.

Dr Goldie said it is “simply unacceptable” that almost 13 per cent of Australia go without the basics in a wealthy country like Australia.

“It is a fundamental human right to be afforded an adequate standard of living,” she said.

Further information

A copy of the ACOSS report is available here.

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