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The 2013 Economic and Social Impact Survey (ESIS) 2013 paints a picture of the struggles of people with limited economic and social resources. This national survey provides some clear and challenging insights into the economic and social impact of current cost of living pressures on people seeking emergency relief and support through The Salvation Army services.

ESIS 2013 also reinforces and provides further emphasis to the results of the 2012 ESIS report. Indeed, there are consistent similarities between the 2012 and the 2013 ESIS surveys, which highlight that there is a core group within our communities who continue to experience significant disadvantage without the resources and capabilities to move forward or out of their current situations. Despite this, comments from respondents overwhelmingly reflect an intrinsic desire to have what the general community has, namely employment, safe and secure housing, and the ability to provide for their children and families.

Three themes can be highlighted from ESIS 2013 – adequacy of income support, employment and employability, and housing affordability and adequacy. In light of recent reports and the outcomes of government inquiries, these finding are both pertinent and lend significant weight to the ongoing concerns of The Salvation Army about the continuing impact of disadvantage and deprivation on individuals and families.

Woman in despair

Three themes from ESIS 2013:

  • adequacy of income support
  • employment and employability; and
  • housing affordability and adequacy.

As detailed in many of the respondent comments to the issue, the impact of the legislative changes to the parenting payment for single parents is having a marked impact of their economic capacities and resultant levels of deprivation. It can be suggested, and indeed it is supported by respondent comments, that the levels of deprivation experienced by single parents are being compounded by the shift to the lower paying Newstart Allowance.

In its submission to the Senate Committee Inquiry on the parenting payment transitional arrangements16, The Salvation Army raised significant concerns the impact of such changes would have on those currently experiencing significant deprivation as indicated in the ESIS 2012 report:

“Parents who shift from the single parent payment to the Newstart Allowance and have no current earnings will be the hardest hit. This cohort is the most disadvantaged in terms of education and employment prospects, economic sustainability and living situations. Reducing their income support will do nothing to alleviate their current circumstances.” (p.4)

These concerns are reinforced by the findings of the current survey. In addition, given that the premise of this legislative change, and indeed the function of the Newstart Allowance is to promote a transition to work, The Salvation Army strongly believes that reduced economic resources hinder and seriously compromise an individual’s ability to find employment. The current structures that support employment capacity do not seem to be working for many marginalised and disadvantaged individuals. Respondent comments suggest that this is due to a range of factors including lack of flexible employment options that take into account health and physical limitations and caring responsibilities, and lack of experience and skills. In addition, poverty, poor housing, lack of transport and limited educational and work based experiences are significant barriers to finding and holding employment.

Housing affordability is a national issue. Rising private costs and diminishing public housing stock leave few options for those on low income. Many respondents reported inadequate and sub-standard housing conditions and high rental costs as significant factors impacting cost of living pressures and causing significant financial stress.

ESIS 2013 also provides insights into the levels of deprivation experienced by over 2,800 children and young people. With one third of respondents being single parent households and with over half of the identified children being within school age range (i.e. 5 to 15 years), the levels of deprivation and the short and long term impacts of such disadvantage are of significant concern to The Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army has an extensive history of working with the most marginalised and disadvantaged people in our communities. This report confirms that the current living circumstances for these individuals and families continue to be compromised by inadequate income support and inequitable and inadequate policy and systems. The impact of this is social exclusion and compromised social connections and networks, and limited access to services and activities for individuals and families.

The Salvation Army strongly affirms the respondent comment It’s not asking too much... for individuals and families to have the opportunities to work and provide for an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families, and to participate fully in the Australian community. ESIS 2013, however, confirms and strengthens the findings of ESIS 2012 that there is a significant number of people who do not have these opportunities and who continue to experience disadvantage, deprivation and social exclusion on a daily basis.

16. The Salvation Army (July 2012) Submission to Senate Committee Inquiry – Social Security Legislation Amendment (Fair Incentives to Work) Bill 2012.