This Economic and Social Impact Survey (ESIS) 2014 is the third consecutive report by The Salvation Army Australia into the levels of deprivation and disadvantage experienced by those within our communities who need to access Emergency Relief (ER) services.
As a major provider of Emergency Relief (ER) services in Australia, The Salvation Army provides a safety net for many within the community who are struggling to make ends meet. In 2013, The Salvation Army provided ER to 156,913 people and their families across Australia, representing a total of 320,260 client contacts.
The Salvation Army is a major provider of Emergency Relief (ER) services in Australia, providing a safety net for many within the community who are struggling to make ends meet. In the 2013-2014 financial year The Salvation Army contributed approximately $18 million of its own funds to support its 237 emergency relief and community support services across Australia.
“I just want to get a job and have the same as others – break the poverty cycle.” - Respondent comment
ESIS 2014 provides a detailed analysis of 2,485 responses to the ESIS survey distributed through the 237 Salvation Army ER and community support services across Australia during February 2014. The ESIS 2014 report reveals a disheartening picture of enduring and entrenched poverty and disadvantage within a core group within the Australian community.
The Salvation Army is deeply concerned about increasing demand for services that will be subject to a reduction in funding as a result of the 2014 Federal Budget. Changes to Newstart and Youth Allowance will result in greater demand for services that The Salvation Army will increasingly struggle to provide.
As in previous ESIS reports, the children of these respondents continue to be deprived of essential items and services due to their parents lack of financial resources. ESIS 2014 shows that it is these groups who are doing it hardest within our communities, and their ongoing level of disadvantage and poverty continues to be of significant concern to The Salvation Army.
ESIS 2014 respondents face constant stress associated with inadequate economic resources. They have no, or limited, options to mediate problems if they arise, and as a result are excluded from everyday resources, including access to services, and recreational and social experiences. Of great concern for families is the paucity of options to provide for their children when economic resources are so limited. The Salvation Army, through its extensive national network of emergency relief centres, corps, social programs and employment services provide a significant and comprehensive response to individual and community disadvantage.
In the same month that saw the release of the National Commission of Audit – Towards Responsible Government,(1) and as the country moves to what is predicted to be an austere national budget that will see major changes to education, welfare and social structure spending, ESIS 2014 is a tangible reminder to those in government of people who will be most affected by the proposed changes. The Salvation Army, as one of Australia’s largest providers of welfare services, works on a daily basis with those most in need. Recognising that the support and services provided to the community by governments must be managed effectively and efficiently, the proposed changes and budgetary measures will, however, significantly impact those already disadvantaged and marginalised in the community, and only serves to increase and further consign individuals and families to a life of poverty.
The following table indicates the percentage of income clients, receiving a range of allowances, already need to spend on accommodation, as indicated in The Salvation Army submission to the Senate Economics Reference Committee on Affordable Housing.
A recent report by the OECD cited the following:
Relative poverty in Australia (14.4% of the population) is higher than the OECD average (11.3%). Even if they still are high, poverty rates for youth and particularly those over the age of 65 declined, while child poverty increased.
10% of Australians report that they cannot afford to buy enough food. This share has increased somewhat over the past years (3).
The report describes that while there has been an increase in real public spending this has mainly been due to pensions, leaving many families with children behind. In addition, this report states that public spending is below the OECD average. The Australian Government Treasury stated the following in its 2013 Economic Roundup:
A greater focus on understanding and tackling multiple and entrenched disadvantage is critical in terms of improving overall wellbeing in Australia, notwithstanding that sustained economic growth and strong real income growth across the spectrum has delivered a great deal to Australians in recent years (4).
It is the experience of The Salvation Army and the experiences of those represented in the ESIS reports that poverty and disadvantage continue to affect many Australians and the impact is complex and wide ranging. Causes of and responses to these issues are just as complex and require strong commitment and resolve from all levels of government and the community. The Salvation Army has provided an active voice, alongside that of the Australian Council of Social Services and other not for profit organisations, in advocating for 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. The Salvation Army fears, however, that the current political and economic reality will provide no new start for these individuals and their families.