Respondents also noted efforts to supplement their income through selling or pawning possessions (41%), taking on new debt through credit cards and loans (23%) and gambling (6%). Almost two thirds (63%) had approached welfare or community organisations for help and over half had asked for help from friends and family.
Limited economic resources place limits on the capacity of respondents to fund risk mitigation measures such as having savings, home contents or car insurance. Without such options, respondents have limited capacity to respond when things go wrong, often resorting to increasing debt which they cannot afford, and borrowing from family and friends or asking for assistance from community based organisations. The risk for many is a further shift into deprivation. Indeed, in a recent report by The Salvation Army, “I wish I’d known sooner!”  , the level of debt of people accessing financial counselling through the community support services and Doorways Centres was alarming:
“32% of all respondents reported owning debt of $20,000 or more while the median amount of debt owned was $5,000 to $10,000.”
“Women were more likely to owe money for bills associated with running a household (e.g. utilities and ITC). Men more often struggled to repay money owing on loans (payday and personal) and mortgages.” (p.2)
Overwhelmingly, individuals and families who accessed emergency relief services for assistance are unemployed and in receipt of income support payments – two of the key indicators for economic poverty. Further, the majority of these people are experiencing severe levels of multiple deprivation, that is, they are doing without many of the essential everyday items that most of the Australian population takes for granted. Consider that 56 per cent of the survey cohort are living without 10 key items simultaneously, it can be concluded that for any of these individuals they:
- Generally can’t afford a substantial meal once a day (but will make sure their children are fed)
- Generally have poor standard housing – guttering in poor condition, poor security, etc.
- Can generally afford to get to the doctor (bulk billing) but cannot afford to pay for prescriptions
- Don’t have savings, so are constantly anxious about things breaking down and items needing replacement etc
- Don’t have insurances for home contents or their car
- Can’t afford regular social contact with friends
- Can’t buy presents for family members birthdays