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Financial Situation

Fifty-six percent of respondents reported they felt worse about their current financial situation compared to this time last year and 29% reported they felt negative about their prospective financial situation in the coming 12 months.

For many respondents, their financial situation is less likely to change and they may remain stuck in their situation without significant intervention.

“I felt as though I had control over my life, household and finances until recent changes in my circumstances have meant that I have felt as though I lost everything including my family and have literally had to start rebuilding my life from the ground up.“

“My social anxiety is worsened by my financial situation. My level of self-worth is very low. The Salvation Army has been and continues to be very, very important to me through the help in housing (Flagstaff and Open Door housed me for most of 2014), food and support. Otherwise I would be homeless, more depressed and anxious, and likely have to resort to crime just to survive.”

“Having my husband walk out and leave us with no money or support crushed our family. Then lots of other things on top have made life hard…but thank God for the Salvos.”

“I don't feel that helpful, useful or hopeful about who I have become. Not sure I'll be here next year.”

Financial hardship

The majority of respondents experienced some form of financial hardship and disadvantage. Due to financial hardship:

   • 75% of respondents indicated they had cut down on basic necessities
   • 68% are stressed about their future  
   • 59% had either delayed or been unable to pay utility bills
   • 57% had gone without meals   
   • 41% had sold or pawned their possessions.

Over the last 12 months, respondents with limited resources have had to make concessions due to their financial situations. Sixty per cent of respondent’s accessed community support services when in need and 54% have asked for financial help from friends. Many respondents described the necessity to access ER services due to financial hardships. Some respondents described other measures to combat financial stress, such as: 28% took out new debts and 8% tried gambling in the attempt to supplement their income.

Essentials of Life

The Essentials of Life scale provided an indication of the levels of deprivation experienced by the respondents’ household. 

The list consisted of 26 items considered essential to everyday life for Australians.

Overall, respondents went without:

   • $500 savings in case of an emergency (91%)
   • Dental treatment (68%), medical treatment (37%) and buying medicine prescribed by a doctor 
   • Buying a gift for a friend or family member at least once a year (60%)
   • At least one substantial meal a day (25%).

Respondents were significantly impacted by their lack of financial resources. Respondents cut down on essential items in life, including access to medical and health services, household appliances and social and recreational activities. In particular, 52% went without social contact with others, 32% had to do without a washing machine and 31% went without heating/cooling in at least one room due to financial hardship. Limited financial resources led to severe deprivation experienced by respondents.

“I am consistently struggling week to week on financial a basis, even with vouchers…I go without meals most nights to ensure my kids have enough.”

The children of respondents went without:

   • Out-of-school activities (65%) and an internet connection (62%)
   • Money to participate in school activities (54%) and up-to-date school books (50%)
   • Fresh fruit and vegetables daily (34%) and three meals a day (18%)

Results indicated that a significant proportion of children of those receiving ER assistance experienced severe deprivation and went without five or more essential everyday items. Singles with children were the most deprived cohort in the sample. Due to lack of finances, children were excluded from educational, social and recreational activities. This highlights the financial challenges and pressure of raising children with limited financial means for many disadvantaged Australians. The impact of financial hardship on children’s education, academic performance, and social connections is alarming.

“I am in a lot of debt and am currently unable to register my car or pay my bills.”

Levels of deprivation

Overall, 87% of households reported they experienced severe levels of deprivation and went without five essential items of life.40 Approximately 46% of households indicated at least 5-10 deprivation items (severe deprivation)41 and 41% indicated 11+ deprivation items (extreme deprivation)42.

For those respondents who had children, 60% presented with severe levels of deprivation and went without five or more essential items.43 

“I am quite lonely here. No family. I barely eat more than one meal a day. I’ll do anything to make my kids happy.”

Most deprived households were people with unstable accommodation (couch surfing, temporary accommodation, living with family/friends), homeless, no income, Newstart allowance, and also those that were looking for jobs.

40. Essential items for adults are defined according to indicators of disadvantage developed by Saunders, Naidoo and Griffiths, (2007).
41. Severe deprivation is defined as missing out on 5 or more essential items.
42. Extreme deprivation is defined as missing out on 11 or more essential items.
43. Essential items for children are adapted from UNICEF Child Deprivation Index and Saunders, Naidoo and Griffiths (2007). The UNICEF Child Deprivation Index define deprivation as lacking two or more of 14 items considered normal and necessary for a child in an economically advanced country. We define severe deprivation as lacking five or more of the children essential items considered normal and necessary for a child in an economically advanced country based on both Saunders, et al (2007) and UNICEF Child Deprivation Index.