Snapshot of Australia
Our experience and research supports the assertion that recipients of income support are increasingly unable to meet the daily cost of living.
As private rental costs rise and public housing stocks diminish, homelessness and housing affordability remains the most significant challenge impacting our clients, our work and the sector as a whole.
In Australia an estimated 2.5 million people or 13.9% of all people live below the internationally accepted poverty line, according to a 2014 Poverty in Australia report by the Australian Council of Social Service. More than 600,000 of these people are children, accounting for 17.7% of all children in Australia.
These are the people The Salvation Army comes into contact with each day. Our own research and experience reveals a disheartening picture of entrenched poverty and disadvantage within this group.
In May we released our 2014 National Economic and Social Impact Survey (ESIS) that found, of the 2,485 clients surveyed across 237 of our emergency relief centres:
- 91% of people accessing Salvation Army services were reliant onincome support payments;
- single parents made up 32% of respondents, and over 2,500 children were represented;
- asylum seekers and people with complex health issues or disabilities were a significant proportion of survey respondents;
- 15% of respondents identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders, which is a significantly high proportion of the Indigenous population of Australia (3%);
- more than one third (36%) of clients turned to our community support services for the first time this year; and
- 60% of people were residing in private rental, and 14% were homeless.
On any given night in Australia, 1 in 200 people are homeless. In 2013 the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reported a 3% increase in people accessing specialist homelessness services. AIHW also reported a 26% increase (from 2012) in the number of clients ‘couch surfing’ or otherwise living without tenure. Indigenous Australians were also highly over represented in this category, amounting to 22% of homeless service clients.
Escaping family and domestic violence continues to be the leading causeof homelessness. An AIHW report showed 32% of female clients in specialist homelessness services identify this as their main presenting issue. 53% of women accessing Salvation Army homelessness women’s services identified this as the case. Of particular concern is the number of children represented within these services.
People who are disadvantaged and have complex needs require an investment of time and resources to support them. This is why we contributed approximately $18 million from internally generated funds in2013/14 to support our 237 emergency relief and community support services, and over $31 million to support our 155 housing and homelessness services.
Changes to Newstart and Youth Allowance in the Federal Budget this year will result in greater demand for services that The Salvation Army will increasingly struggle to provide. We continue, however, to be an active voice alongside the Australian Council of Social Services and other not-for- profit organisations to advocate a fair and just approach for all Australians, to ensure they can develop the resources and capabilities to engage fully and meaningfully in the Australian community.