This week is Anti-Poverty Week – held each year to help raise important conversations about poverty in our state and beyond it, and what we can do better.
This year, a key focus of the week is to shine a light on the fact that in Australia today 2.65 million people are struggling to survive on income payments that are well below the poverty line.
That is over one in 10 Australians. Many are at risk of homelessness due to a shortage of affordable housing. And it’s not just about income support – SACOSS has also highlighted the significant challenges faced by households who rely on wages for income and yet still live below the poverty line.
SACOSS continues to strongly advocate, together with ACOSS and many others, for the federal government to raise the rate of income support above the poverty line. We are also calling for urgent and significant investments in public housing, from both state and federal governments. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic make action in this space even more pressing.
“We know that far too many South Australians are struggling so hard just to meet the most basic of needs,” said SACOSS CEO Ross Womersley. “It is simply not good enough. We are a prosperous state in a prosperous nation – if we cannot provide adequate support and measures to ensure that people can meet fundamental, basic costs of living, we are simply not trying hard enough.”
Just last week, the renter survey report released by the Anti-Poverty Network of South Australia showed that, of the survey respondents, 1 in 4 people said they had less than $14 a day ($100 a week) left after paying their rent. Alarmingly, 77% said the cost of rent often impacted their ability to pay their bills on time, or eat well, that they sometimes had to skip meals, or avoided fresh food.
“These statistics are disturbing, and highlight the reality that too many South Australians are currently facing,” stated Mr Womersley.
“Increasing rents and house prices mean people are struggling to stay housed, or are forced to live in overcrowded, sub-standard or unsuitable homes. SACOSS has proposed a range of measures to help address rental affordability woes, including a significantly increased investment by the State Government in public housing.
“While poverty sounds like something that may be too big to fix, it really isn’t. Raising income support above the poverty line and investing in public housing are keys to addressing poverty this Anti-Poverty Week. Our state and federal government can make huge differences in people’s lives,” Mr Womersley stated.
“This would be a great week to see our State Government step up and commit to these measures. And we’d love to see them take the argument for raising the rate of income support to the Federal Government, too. Straightaway, a measure like that would lift so many South Australians out of poverty, and into a brighter future – for all of us.”
In addition to action on rental affordability, some other practical immediate steps the SA State Government can take to address poverty include to:
- Implement the recommendations for review and reform of our state concessions system, arising from the SACOSS Report ‘The State of Concessions in SA’, including widening criteria to capture people on low incomes who are not able to access concessions.
- Act on digital exclusion: the new frontier of poverty, committing to the set of digital inclusion goals identified by SACOSS.
- Implement the SACOSS Anti-Poverty Package, which contains 12 simple steps the SA State Government can take to remove some specific poverty premiums, poverty traps, and barriers to access for a range of government policies and practices.
“Ignoring the opportunities to address poverty is a choice that our governments make every day they don’t take action on our behalf as a community. We know it doesn’t have to be this way – so let’s collectively demand some real action to fix it. We are a fairer community than this.” Mr Womersley stated.
Access to housing is a key focus of a free forum tomorrow (20 October) at 12 noon at the UniSA West Campus, co-hosted by the St Vincent de Paul Society and the Anti-Poverty Network SA.
- Helen Connolly, Commissioner for Children & Young People; Chair of Anti-Poverty Week
- Ross Womersley, CEO, South Australian Council of Social Services (SACOSS)
- Josh Peak, Secretary, Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association (SDA)
- Tim Best, Operations Manager, Vinnies Men’s Crisis Centre
- Associate Professor Anna Ziersch, Flinders University, College of Medicine and Public Health
- Pas Forgione, Coordinating Committee Member, Anti-Poverty Network South Australia
- Amethyst deWilde, Coordinating Committee Member, Anti-Poverty Network South Australia