The Changing Face of Poverty

Posted on October 17, 2018

The Changing Face of Poverty

While Anti-Poverty Week is being held across Australia, City Mission's CEO, Steve Brown, shares his insights on the changing face of poverty and the issues facing our community.

As part of Anti-Poverty Week, our CEO, Stephen Brown shares his thoughts on poverty in the community and calls for more to be done to combat the growing issue.

"Poverty affects people from all walks of life. Those who are unemployed or suffering from an illness, disability or a relationship breakdown. Someone who is a low wage earner, underemployed or has simply fallen on hard times.In Tasmania the poverty rate is around 14% and remains a significant issue in our community. Last year we experienced a 40% increase in people asking us for help and it is clear that the face of poverty is changing. In the media we see a stereotypical image of a young person who doesn’t want to find work, however, recipients of New Start and Youth Allowance payments are from diverse backgrounds. Recent statistics on Australians receiving these payments highlight that just 17% were under 25 years, 38% were aged 25- 44, with the largest age group being over 45 years, sitting at 43%.

"Shockingly, the Newstart Allowance hasn't increased above inflation since 1994. This needs to be urgently addressed, along with an increase in Youth Allowance. Evidence in a recent study commissioned by ACOSS highlights the economic impact of raising Newstart and related payments by $75 per week. The report suggests regional communities would receive a multi-million-dollar boost with Launceston predicted to receive an injection of $16 million through the creation of new jobs, increased wages and profits and most importantly, an increase in income for people in the lowest income bracket.

“While most people living in poverty receive welfare payments as their main source of income, a third of people living in poverty rely on wages as their main source of income. This shows that even though people are working, it doesn’t necessarily provide an adequate income. While the increasing casualisation of the workforce is positive in terms of jobs growth, it’s also a contributing factor in the rising level of underemployment.

"There has been much discussion this year in relation to Tasmania's housing crisis and it's positive to see short and long terms plans to rectify the situation have begun. Housing policies that create homes for more households and encourage investment must be a priority. In the north of the state, there has been a 49% decline in advertised properties over the last five years and around 40% of our Family Services clients report being impacted by rental stress. But of course, this has a broader impact on people as they are forced to sacrifice spending on necessities such as food and power to be able to meet skyrocketing rental prices. We are seeing the flow on effect of this with more and more people seeking assistance with food and utility payments.

“Not surprisingly, the impact of poverty on children is also profound. Figures for Tasmania suggest around 15,000 children are living on a very low income and below the poverty with a high percentage among sole parent families. Changes to welfare payment since 2009 including Parenting Payment, Family Tax Benefit and the transfer of sole parents to Newstart Allowance have left many families struggling to make ends meet.

Not only does poverty effect food, housing and education, children from families with a high reliance on welfare support can also have a decreased sense of control over life events, yet are likely to experience more adversity throughout their lives. Child social exclusion is also a growing issue and in 2016 Tasmania had the second highest prevalence of children with the greatest risk of social exclusion in Australia (34%). This can lead to lost opportunity and disengagement, something we often see the effects of through our Inside Out 4 Kids program.

As we come together this week to raise awareness of poverty in our communities, I ask you to take a moment to consider what life is like for those who are suffering hardship. I encourage you to use your voice for those in our community that may be unable to use theirs. As poverty rates continue to grow, we need to work together to drive policy change to ensure everyone has access to life's basic necessities.

As the writer of James 2:17 encourages us,

“…faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless”.

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