Low income Australians are doing it tough

8 December 2008

New research from ACOSS shows many low income Australians go without the basic necessities like a decent and secure home, access to dental treatment and new schoolbooks and clothes for their children.

Indigenous Australians, unemployed people, sole parents and people with disabilities are doing it toughest and are regularly unable to pay for items like utility bills, prescription medicines, dental treatment, or presents for family. Among older people those who rent privately face the most hardship.

Those doing it toughest often get the least income support. The Government’s economic security payments are due to hit bank accounts from this week. Although those with children will receive $1000 per child, unemployed people and sole parents, miss out on the $1400 and $2100 payments for pensioners.

“With estimates of an extra 150,000 unemployed people by mid-2010 there will only be greater numbers of people doing it tough,” Clare Martin, CEO, ACOSS. “Many unemployed people, sole parents and people with disabilities are unable to pay for things most people take for granted – such as buying new clothes for children and paying for medicines.”

“57% of sole parents on income support can not pay their utility bills, 30% of people on Newstart recipients can’t afford gifts for friends and family, and a third of Disability Support Pensioners cannot afford to visit the dentist. These are red flags that the social security system is not protecting the most vulnerable people from hardship.”

New data shows:

  • 65% of Indigenous people, 54% of unemployed people, 49% of sole parent families, 27% of people with disabilities, 53% of public tenants suffer multiple deprivation (lack three or more out of the 26 essential items identified in the report) compared with 19% of all Australians.
  • Young people (under 25 years) are most likely to suffer multiple deprivation (27%) than those aged 26-64 (19%) or over 64 (12%).
  • Among mature age people (over 64 years) those who rent their homes are the most likely to suffer multiple deprivation (39%).
  • Those most likely to be living in poor quality or insecure housing are on Parenting Payment (43%), Newstart Allowance (23%), and other Centrelink payments – like Carer Payment – (14%), compared to 7% of all people.
  • Those most likely to be unable to afford prescribed medicines are on Newstart Allowance (17%), Parenting Payment (13%), and Disability Support Pension (11%) compared to 4% of all people.

Breakdown by States and Territories:

  • People living in Victoria (21%), Queensland (21%), and South Australia (20%) were more likely to experience multiple deprivation than residents of other States and Territories, and residents of the Australian Capital Territory (10%) and Western Australia (12%) were less likely. This is compared to 19% nationally.

Income Support Payments:

  • An unemployed single adult on Newstart Allowance gets just $225 per week, which is $56 per week than the austere age pension payment ($281). An independent young unemployed person (under 25) receives just $178.

Read the report: Who is missing out? Hardship among low income Australians

Media contact : Clare Cameron – 0419 626 155