Skip to main content

We must not let more than a million children fall off the cliff into poverty in September


We must not let more than a million children fall off the cliff into poverty in September

Anti-Poverty Week  and the National Council for Single Mothers and their Children are calling on the Federal government to ensure more than a million children don’t fall into poverty at the end of September. The organisations say the government needs to either extend the $550 per week Coronavirus Supplement or increase core payments to above the poverty line in its forthcoming 23 July statement.

The Coronavirus Supplement of $550 per fortnight is helping lift many thousands of families out of poverty, but at least one million children will suffer if their parents lose this support when it is due to cease just before Anti-Poverty Week in October.” said Executive Director of Anti-Poverty Week Toni Wren.

We know that growing up in poverty sets children back with their learning at school, as well as their physical and mental health, and that these negative effects can last a life time. The recent poverty report released by ACOSS and UNSW shows very high rates of poverty for children in Australia before the bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic and the Supplement was introduced.  Shockingly, nearly half (44%) of the children in sole parent families lived in poverty. 

“The Supplement is unlocking poverty for these families and many others as well as protecting those who have become newly unemployed from falling into poverty.  We commend the Government for introducing it as part of its response to COVID-19 and urge that it continues.”

A new study of some of families receiving the Coronavirus Supplement has found the vast majority spend the extra money on essentials like groceries, heating and cooling their home, keeping their car on the road, clothing and health related purchases.

National Council for Single Mothers and their Children (NCSMC) CEO Terese Edwards said “While these are essential household items that every family in Australia should be able to afford, the Coronavirus Supplement has also given pride and a sense of belief in the future for these families.”

“We’ve called the results of this survey “550 Reasons to Smile”  and started an accompanying facebook page to collect more stories of the difference it is making for their families.”

The Survey commissioned by NCSMC found:

  • More than three quarters of respondents (78%) spent the Supplement on groceries;
  • Nearly 3 in 5 (58%) used it for heating and cooling their home and paying energy bills;
  • More than half (52%) said it helped them keep their car on the road
  • More than 2 in 5 (43%)  bought clothing
  • Just over 2 in 5 (43%)  used it for health related purchases such as attending appointments, getting scripts filled and for prescriptions glasses.

Some of the comments from parents who responded include:

“With the $550 I didn’t need to think twice about taking my child to the doctors when he had tonsillitis and needed antibiotics, nor did I have to stress about buying the antibiotics or the chemist brand liquid paracetamol ($30) so he could eat or sleep with no pain.”

“I’ve been able to buy real ingredients and make proper meals for the kids. My rent is no longer 60% of my total income, and I can buy household items I’ve been needing for years and musical instruments to enrich the children’s lives.”

In answer to the question, ‘How has the extra $550 affected you?

  • Nearly 9 in 10 (87%) said it reduced stress and anxiety as we can pay our household bills
  • Nearly 7 in 10 (69%) said our family is healthier due to having enough food to eat and healthier options
  • Nearly 2 in 3 (65%) say they are sleeping better, not waking up due to money stress
  • Over half (55%) said they can stay healthier as we can stay warm in winter and cool in summer.

“The supplement means I have a safety net. I don’t need to worry if I or my children get sick and I need time off work.”

“I’m less stressed and the kids are happier. It’s made such an impact to my mental health in a positive way.”

A total of 95% of respondents answered either critical (79%) or very important (16%) when answering the question, ‘How important is it to keep the coronavirus supplement, $550 per fortnight?’ Just over 3% said it was not important or somewhat important.

“It’s hard to think ahead when you only get to live 1 week out of 2. There’s no money left in that 2nd week. If the supplement ends in September I don’t know how I’ll afford kinder, (she’s only been going since it’s been free), car insurance and even school uniforms next year.”

Although this additional payment is intended to be temporary it has made the world of difference to us, the weight of the world feels just a little lighter. I feel like I can be a better parent, and I can now provide the basics that my children deserve. In lieu of child support reform my family needs this payment to survive. Please give us a fighting chance because the ‘old normal’ is no way for children to grow up.”

These findings confirm the results of a similar survey by the Australian Council of Social Service which found that 9 out of 10 people would find it difficult to cover the cost of essentials if the supplement was removed.

Anti-Poverty Week Executive Director Toni Wren said, “In addition to the important work the Coronavirus Supplement is doing to protect families and individuals from poverty, it is also helping the economy by significantly boosting spending.”  The  Alpha Beta illion consumer spending tracker shows Essential Spending increased from 87% of normal levels on 20 April to 99% on 27 April (when the Coronavirus Supplement started to be paid) and it has stayed closed to 100% since then.

For interview contact Toni Wren 0405 705 442 or Terese Edwards 0439 211 493.

Note for editors:

  • The Federal Government is expected to make announcements in the 23 July Economic Statement on the future of the Coronavirus Supplement of $550 per fortnight currently paid on top of JobSeeker, Parenting Payment Single and a further 8 income support payments including Farm Household Allowance.  Data released to the Senate COVID-19 Committee on 7/7/20 shows the number of people receiving unemployment payments has doubled from 813,721 in December 2019 to 1,614,412 at 26/6/20.  The number receiving the Coronavirus Supplement was more than 2.24 million at 26/6, including around a quarter of a million parents receiving the Parenting Payment Single who have children aged under 8 years as well as many thousands with older children who receive the JobSeeker payment.
  • The 1 million children figure is a conservative estimate based on analysis by APW as the Government does not release this figure in its regular reporting on income support payments. Contact Toni Wren for the assumptions used.
  • 327 parents responded to the NCSMC survey which opened in late May.  These results reflect responses received to 2 July.  The survey is not intended as a nationally representative sample but rather to provide key information on the impact on families receiving it.
  • Before the bushfires and COVID-19, two in five parents who relied on income support also worked part-time. Many of these, especially sole parents, will have lost their jobs involuntarily or given up part-time work due to the need to protect themselves or their children for exposure to the virus.  Their chances of finding work again will be low as they compete with large numbers of people who have also become unemployed or lost hours. See also Anti-Poverty Week 2019 Fast Fact: Child Poverty in Australia.