The Essentials of Life scale provides an indication of the level of deprivation experienced by individuals. The scale is a list of 26 items that Australians currently regard as essential to everyday life. The scale provides a measure of deprivation, indicating how many people do not have and cannot afford each of the 26 items. The following series of charts provide the percentage responses of items, activities and opportunities that respondents do without and the impact on their children.
Results across the 26 items indicate that people are substantially impacted by their level of income, and are having to make signifi cant adjustments to standards of living, medical treatment and social and recreational activities. In effect, respondents are struggling across a range of areas, from paying bills, to health care and providing for dependent children.
The respondent cohort is predominantly unemployed (79%) with over a third (34%) in receipt of the Newstart Allowance, which has the lowest payment rate. This includes single parents whose youngest child is over eight years of age. Thirty per cent of respondents were on the Disability Support Pension and 20 per cent were in receipt of the single rate Parenting Payment. A direct consequence of income support payments is limited economic resources, and as such it is not surprising that the impact of such restrictions is wide.
Limited economic resources place restrictions on an individual’s capacity to fund risk mitigation measures, such as having savings, home contents and vehicle insurance. Over 90 per cent (92%) of respondents did not have savings up to $500, 82 per cent did not have home contents insurance and nearly two thirds (65%) did not have vehicle insurance. This represents a limited capacity to respond to situations that go wrong, e.g. a car accident, a washing machine or fridge stops working, or storm damage to the interior of a home (Chart 15 a and 15b).