Coast Shelter encourages re-think on poverty

In an open letter addressing Anti-Poverty Week, Coast Shelter has encouraged Central Coast residents to reassess their understanding of poverty and the stigma attached to the unemployed.

Coast Shelter’s executive officer, Mr Laurie Maher said wealth is very unequally shared in Australia and an ever increasing number of Australians are finding they are having to go without the basic necessities such as food, shelter or electricity.

“We are seeing at present greater numbers than ever of individuals and families sleeping in their cars unable to pay the high rental prices demanded in Gosford,” Mr. Maher said.

“According to a 2014 Oxfam report called ‘Still The Lucky Country’, the richest one per cent of Australians own more than the poorest 60 per cent of Australians.

“Have you had to skip a meal this week to pay for your child’s medication? “Are you faced with continually having to manage your bills, for example, do I eat or pay the electricity bill, and then there’s the rent. “Do you find that you are unable to participate in activities that some of us take for granted?”

Mr. Maher said it is a sad indictment that too many Australians are faced with having to make these difficult choices every day. How does this happen in a wealthy country like Australia? He asked.

Poverty can also lead to homelessness. Both the shortage of low-cost private rental accommodation and continuing high levels of unemployment and casualisation of employment, particularly for women and youth, affect people’s ability to pay the rent.

“Poverty causes difficulties with access to work, income, education, housing and health. “People living on low incomes report incidences of illness at much higher rates than those on high incomes.

“This could be in part due to high stress levels, overcrowded housing and poor diet. “This is Anti-Poverty Week and it is a stark reminder when more than 2.5 million Australians (13.9 per cent) are currently living below the poverty line.

“Of that, 602,604 are children who live below the poverty line, that’s one in every six children,” Mr Maher said. Mr Maher said if you are a single adult surviving on less than $400 a week or a family of four surviving on less than $841 per week, according to the ACOSS report, you are living in poverty.

It comes therefore as no surprise that there are high rates of poverty for single women, unemployed people, sole parent families, people with disabilities, Indigenous Australians and some groups of immigrants and refugees.

“These poverty statistics must influence any proposed cuts to welfare payments. “The blame game needs to cease with the stigma that if you are receiving unemployment benefits you are not wanting to work. “There is a huge majority of people who are actively trying every day to find work,” Mr. Maher said.

“People are embarrassed and humiliated about their situation. “Poverty is about those individuals and families, the men, women, children and youth who all too often find themselves excluded from being able to fully participate in our society,” he said.

Media release,
Oct 12, 2015
Jade Smith, Coast Shelter