Respondents identified four key factors that contributed to their experiences of financial distress. Respondents had limited control or influence over these factors and their impact was further compounded by personal circumstances.
The main causes of financial distress among the people surveyed included:
• Housing affordability
• Difficulties balancing working and parental care responsibilities
• Challenges of being a single parent
• Barriers to employment.
Levels of financial distress were further compounded due to personal situations. These included:
• Partner absent
• Death of a loved one
• Feeling unsafe due to violence or bullying from partner/ex-partner
• Partner with alcohol and/or drug addictions, and/or mental health problems
• Personal health problems or caring for a child, partner or family member with special medical
• Overwhelmed with responsibilities.
Other emotional impacts due to financial distress included:
• Poor social life
• Low self-esteem
• Loss of hope/lack of motivation to move on
• Feeling disappointed with self
• Feeling desperate and/or suicidal.
Despite such grave personal situations and experiences of financial distress, some respondents managed to improve their living through self-effort, determination and with the help of others. Close relationships with another person and keeping a positive outlook appeared of great benefit. Such optimistic perspectives were inspirational given the life experiences and personal circumstances described by some respondents.
Overall, ESIS 2015 consistently highlighted that a significant number of people have limited financial resources available and struggle to meet their everyday expenses and financial commitments. The results also indicated that financial distress was further compounded by personal situations, with many individuals experiencing high degrees of social disconnection and exclusion. Of concern are those individuals who also experience severe and extreme levels of deprivation, which have further compromised individual and children’s living standards and inclusion in the Australian community.
“Never have I ever been so destitute in my life.“
“I have been in a bad relationship with my kids’ father. He drinks and doesn't help with the kids financially, physically or emotionally.”
“My wife died and left us alone with nobody to look after us. It’s a lonely world out here.”
“My husband has epilepsy and one daughter has autism. I feel like a prisoner. I can’t have time for myself.”
“I feel that I let my children down by not being able to provide a home for them.”
“My loneliness is killing me and I can't stay alone anymore.”
“I wish I never came into this world. If I could turn back my life I would.”
“When my partner and I told people close to us we were broke and struggling…it was like we had Ebola, no-one came near us.”
“Before I was sleeping in parks, train stations and people's couches but now I have a home and it’s slowly building up. I am going to make it.”