Anti-Poverty Week (11-17 Oct 2015) serves as an annual reminder about how much we take for granted.
It's not about feeling sorry for the poor, it's about asking why, in a society as economically prosperous as Australia, do we continue to have so much poverty and inequality? Why is homelessness so prevalent and why do we keep cutting our international aid budget? Surely we can do better.
For the past four years, The Salvation Army has conducted a national Economic and Social Impact Survey (ESIS) amongst people who are seeking assistance from our Doorways Emergency Relief (ER) services. This year, in Anti-Poverty Week, for the first time we are releasing the key findings that specifically relate to Victoria.
The report reveals the challenges faced by 679 struggling and vulnerable Victorians, including:
- A median figure of 59% of respondents’ income was going towards accommodation expenses, almost double the threshold for measuring rental stress;
- After paying to keep a roof over their head, respondents had less than $20 a day to survive on;
- 63% had gone without dental treatment; and
- A third could not afford medication that had been prescribed by a doctor.
The Victorian data also gives us a comparison point with the rest of the country for the first time, revealing that our respondents:
- Were 5% more likely to be unable to afford a decent and secure home
- Were 7% less able to afford up-to-date schoolbooks, equipment and uniform
- Were 5% less able to afford for their children to engage in special activities during school or after school.
The most prevalent factor throughout the survey data was the impact of the cost of housing on people's budgets. For the most part, we expect housing to cost around 30% of household income. Anything over that is counted as being in housing stress and anything over 50% is deemed to be extreme housing stress.
In Victoria, 71% of survey respondents in private rental were in extreme housing stress. Those on Newstart or Youth Allowance were by far the worst off, frequently having less than $10 a day to survive on after paying housing costs.
This clearly shows that tackling housing affordability and the availability of social housing are key priorities for dealing with poverty. Unless we can lighten the load for those who are paying the vast majority of their income in rent, they will always struggle to survive on the little they have left.
For further information, download the Key Findings report.
For more information on Anti-Poverty Week, visit the campaign website.