This Anti-Poverty Week (17-23 October) we are calling on our governments to unlock poverty for millions of Australians by raising income support above the poverty line and investing in social housing. In Australia today 2.65 million adults and children struggle to survive on income payments that are well below the poverty line, that’s over one in 10 Australians – including close to a million children (1 in 5) who are growing up in the poorest families. Many are at risk of homelessness due to a shortage of affordable housing. In 2021 we are again supporting the Raise the Rate for Good and Everybody’s Home campaigns. See our 11 October joint media release Solving the housing crisis and lifting income support will alleviate crushing poverty.
Here’s some immediate actions you can take: read Ashlie’s story and sign the Petition to the Treasurer which calls for an increase in the base rate of working age income support payments to at least $67 a day, a 50% increase in Rent Assistance and an investment in social housing. You can also host your own activity in APW and submit it to our calendar.
Living in poverty is too much like living in permanent lockdown. The ability to do important things is taken away from you. Decisions that affect your life are made without your input. You are reliant on the kindness of others. It’s difficult to see what you can do to change the situation. Not having enough money to cover the necessities including housing restricts daily life and crushes hope for the future.
DSS payments for unemployed people, low-income parents and students are as low as $45 (JobSeeker) and $36 (Youth Allowance) per day – well below the poverty line for singles of $65 per day. The poorest adults and children living under pandemic lockdowns in 2021 are being excluded from the COVID Disaster Payment which will shortly end. See more on income support here.
The housing affordability crisis is worsening especially in regional Australia – rents have increased 11.3% in past year in regions on average (and more than 20% in some regions of Queensland, WA and NSW) and 5% on average in capital cities. The Nowhere to Go report found a $7.6B Federal government investment in social housing would build 16,800 additional units and provide immediate economic benefits of $15.3 billion and create 47,000 new jobs. See more on social housing here.
We need our Federal Government to increase all social security payments to above the poverty line and, in partnership with state and territory governments, invest in social housing.
See this great 2 minute Imagine a World animation created by Canberra University students for Anti-Poverty Week.
2021 spotlight on relieving poverty for families and children
Poverty affects far too many Australian children and families, diminishing their lives now and in the future. As one of the wealthiest countries in the world, it’s just not right that 1 in 6 of our children grow up in poverty. Not having enough money to cover the necessities restricts daily life and crushes hope for the future.
We’ve heard shocking stories of mothers pretending they’ve eaten dinner while cooking when in fact, there was not enough food to feed the whole family; of mothers forced to forego important medications and unable to maintain or fix their car. All of which has the compounding effect of restricting their employment options. We’ve also heard of children telling their younger siblings to drink less milk and not even telling their parents about after school activities and excursions because they know the family cannot afford them.
We know what works. The extra income provided to low-income families doing it tough during 2020 really made a difference. It meant they had enough to cover the basics like healthy food, warm clothes in winter and after school activities like sport and music. Importantly it relieved stress on parents and children which compounds hardship. For some it was the means to escape violence. The full Coronavirus Supplement saw poverty drop by more than half for the poorest families – those headed by single parents. According to ANU research commissioned by the Brotherhood of St Laurence and Social Ventures Australia, poverty rates for these families reduced from 39% to 17%. The 550 Reasons to Smile campaign captured the impact from families:
“This has helped pay the rent and feed my family. I’m a sole parent with no child support and multiple chronic illnesses. This money has given me breathing room.” See more quotes from 550 Reasons to Smile here.
Many low-income families with children would also benefit hugely from Federal and State/Territory governments investing in social housing, ensuring they have a safe, affordable home. To treat all of Australia’s children fairly, we need to ensure every family has enough money to cover the basics and a secure roof over their heads. Children can thrive and be healthy when they have what they need to develop well.
See Ben Phillips and Vivikth Narayanan, Financial Stress and Social Security Settings in Australia, ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods, April 2021. Read a 5 page summary here and watch the 27 April 2021 webinar.
Power to Persuade, Poverty and its effects on school-aged children: Understanding the consequences of policy choices, Professor Sharon Bessell , 20/4/21
See also these websites:
- Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY)
- Every Child
- National Child Protection Week 2021 (5-11 September)
- National Council of Single Mothers and their Children
- 100 Families WA project including their Speaking from Experience video series
- Save the Children
- SNAICC (the national voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children)