Job cuts and rising living costs are pushing Ballarat’s young people, single parents and seniors to the brink, a Ballarat welfare leader says.
UnitingCare research released Saturday reveals Australia’s poverty rate has increased since 2000/01 from 10.2 per cent to 11.8 per cent.
UnitingCare Ballarat executive director Cliff Barclay said the trend was evident in Ballarat where increasing unemployment was forcing more people onto Newstart Allowance.
“Anyone who is unemployed and has to go on Newstart has realised they can’t actually live on it,” he said.
“I think the number one priority should be to get Newstart to a viable level.
“Rents have risen and older people who don’t own a house are going to be suffering as well.”
The Uniting Care Poverty, Social Exclusion and Disadvantage in Australia report showed poverty rates increased to 70 per cent in families where there was an unemployed person and no one else working.
Almost one-quarter of the 2.6 million Australians living under the poverty line were dependent children aged under 25 and almost half a million were under 15.
The research also showed the poverty rate for single parent families was nearly 20 per cent – double that for couples with dependent children.
Dr Barclay said people came into Uniting Care Ballarat every morning seeking emergency relief support.
He described the impact of poverty as “oppressive”.
“There’s no escape, it’s always with you,” he said.
“People living in those sorts of conditions can’t afford to do things and it only makes things worse. They can’t afford to get to a dentist and then they need their teeth fixed.”
The Newstart Allowance ranges from $501 a fortnight for singles and $542 for single parents.
Reflecting on the newly released poverty rates, UnitingCare’s Sally Cowling called for at least a $50 a week rise in the allowance.