Let’s make sure that all Australian children and families can cover the basics and have a secure roof over their head. Children can thrive and be healthy when they have what they need to develop well.
Over three quarters of a million children live in poverty, diminishing their lives now and in the future.
The new report, released on the eve of Anti-Poverty Week Poverty in Australia 2022 by ACOSS/UNSW Poverty and Inequality Partnership finds:
- Poverty in Australia at 1 in 8 or more than 3 million is far too high for such a wealthy country.
- 1 in 6 children in Australia (16.6% or 761,000) are growing up in poverty which continues to be higher than the rate for adults (12.7%). We note these numbers reflect the average for 2019-2020.
- The boost in income support payments provided in the early months of the pandemic delivered large reductions in poverty for adults and children (child poverty rates were reduced to the lowest level in 20 years), but the gains were short-lived.
- While child poverty and overall poverty rates follow similar trends over 20 years (2000-2020), child poverty rates consistently track 3 percentage points higher than rates for the population as a whole.
17 October 2022 marks the 30th year of the declaration of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and the 20th year of Australia dedicating a week to act on poverty.
This Anti-Poverty Week we are calling on all our Parliamentarians to commit to halve child poverty by 2030. This means we can meet our international commitments to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals).
Our Federal Parliamentarians need to pass legislation to halve child poverty by 2030, with measurable targets and actions to achieve this goal.
The New Zealand Government introduced such legislation in 2018 and they’ve made great progress so that fewer children live in poverty. Setting targets enshrined in legislation works and changes lives for the better.
To treat all of Australia’s children fairly, we need to ensure every family has what they need. A legislated plan to halve child poverty by 2030 would be a huge step to achieving this.
Sign our Pledge to Halve Child Poverty by 2030
In 2022, Anti-Poverty Week is sponsored by:
Brotherhood of St Laurence; Berry Street; St Vincent de Paul Society, The Smith Family; Anglicare Australia; Uniting Vic/Tas; The Life Course Centre – ARC Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course; UnitingCare Australia; The Salvation Army; Australian Education Union (Federal); Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation.
2022 State/Territory Co-Chairs include: ACTCOSS, Care Financial Counselling Service ACT; NCOSS; PeakCare Qld; NAPCAN; Commissioner for Children and Young People SA, Baptist Care SA; Salvation Army Tasmania; Uniting Vic/Tas; Family Care Shepparton; Centre Care WA, Foodbank WA. Supporters include ACOSS, Everybody’s Home, Foodbank Australia, Mission Australia and the National Council for Single Mothers and Their Children.
#EndChildPoverty #AntiPovertyWeek #APW22
Child poverty exists and diminishes children’s lives now, and in the future
Starting school: “Growing up in poverty is a strong predictor of a child being developmentally vulnerable by the time they start school.” In 2021, more than 1 in 5 Australian children (22%) were assessed as developmentally vulnerable when they started school, potentially reducing good health, education and social outcomes later in life. Australian Early Development Census, 2022.
At school: For one-in-six Australian children who live in poverty, disadvantage at home carries over into disadvantage at school. Children living in poverty have lower school completion rates and lower scores on national tests such as NAPLAN and students who live in poverty also experience more social exclusion at school than their more advantaged peers. “To reduce educational disadvantage, action is needed to reduce child poverty, which has remained stubbornly high since the early 2000s.” Professor Gerry Redmond The Conversation 10/3/22. Completing education: The likelihood of completing high school or university are two to three times lower for children who are persistently poor (poor for at least three years of their childhoods). 2020 HILDA Survey.
Health and wellbeing: Developed by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY), The Nest offers a holistic approach to child wellbeing and outlines the profound impact poverty, inequality and disadvantage can have on children’s health and wellbeing.
Poverty and Child Safety: led by National Children’s Commissioner Anne Hollonds, the Keeping kids safe and well – your voices report asked children and their families what would help keep children safe and well. The survey found the top three things children, young people and families said they need to feel safe are: help with housing, mental health services, and basic needs, like food, clothing, transport and school supplies.
“Experiencing just a single year of poverty during childhood is associated with poorer socio-economic outcomes in terms of educational attainment, labour market performance and even overall life satisfaction in early adulthood. Children from poor households are 3.3 times more likely to suffer adult poverty than those who grew up in never poor households. Melbourne University, 2020
We can all do something about it
“We need to make sure that every child gets the opportunity to be the best that they can be, because that helps, not just that individual, that’s the key to Australia as well. We need to be the smart country.”
What is driving increases in child poverty?
Child poverty rates at 17.7% in 2018-19 (the latest available data) for after housing were the highest of any age group. Some of the reasons child poverty rates are so high are that income support for families, especially sole parent families, have been eroded over many years:
- Rent Assistance hasn’t had an increase beyond inflation for more than 22 years and social housing provision is not meeting demand.
- Family payments have been raided for Budget savings such that real expenditure in 2020-21 is the same as in 2000-01, despite a 20% increase in children aged 0-14 from 2001 to 2021.
- Sole parents whose youngest child is 8 need to claim the punishingly low JobSeeker Payment now (worth only about 66% of age pension), instead of Parenting Payments.
- Those with younger children able to claim Parenting Payments are still paid at a lower rate than the age pension and face harsher income tests.
- The child support system is also not working as it should, with debts owed to children conservatively estimated to be at least $2B in 2022.
We know what works
The latest ACOSS/UNSW poverty research released 14/10/22 finds that the child poverty rate rose from 16.2 per cent in the September quarter of 2019 to 19 per cent in the March quarter of 2020, then fell to 13.7 per cent – a two-decade low – in June 2020. The increased payments reduced child poverty by a massive 5.3 per cent, giving 245,000 kids in Australia the chance of a better future.
The ACOSS/UNSW Sydney Poverty and Inequality Partnership report-Covid, inequality and poverty in 2020 & 2021 found that during the first ‘Alpha’ wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Australia halved poverty and significantly reduced income inequality, thanks to a raft of Commonwealth Government crisis support payments introduced to help people survive the first lockdown. Among sole parent families (both adults and children) poverty was reduced by almost half, from 34% to 19%.
“The period during the Covid-19 pandemic when income support payments were lifted was hugely beneficial to children and their families. We saw less anxiety about whether families could meet their basic needs such as food, heating, and shelter. We saw reduced suicides as a result. Income support payments should be set at a level that supports individuals and families to live with dignity and meet their basic needs.”
A 2020 London School of Economics paper examined 54 studies from the EU and OECD that had investigated the causal effects of household financial resources on wider outcomes for children. They were clear that this robust evidence base indicates strongly that money itself makes a difference to children’s outcomes. Their report concluded “policies to support household income have a key role to play in any strategy to improve life chances for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. A boost to income affects parenting and the physical home environment, maternal depression, children’s cognitive ability, achievement and engagement in school, and behavior.”
We’re calling for a commitment to halve child poverty by 2030 but actions which could be taken now to reduce child poverty include:
- Increase JobSeeker and related payments so everyone can afford the basics including rent, food, medication and education.
- Build more social housing and increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance so everyone has a safe place to call home.
- Review family payments and child support to ensure they do their job of reducing child poverty and restore parenting payment single eligibility until the youngest child turns 16 not 8.
- Ensure income support and housing feature in the forthcoming final National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022–32.
Please see more from ACOSS, in particular Raise the Rate for Good; Everybody’s Home and National Council for Single Mothers and Their Children, also Anti-Poverty Week, including Fast Fact: Child and Family Poverty in Australia; 22/7/22 Women, Violence and Poverty Briefing and 18/8/22 Child Support Briefing.
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