Anglicare Australia: Demand for charity services grows

Dramatic rises in the cost of living, particularly in rent, is driving an ever-growing demand on Anglicare services across Australia, the welfare body said in a report published on Thursday.

Released as a part of Anti-Poverty Week, the report said stagnant wages compared with cost of living pressures meant “the pressure on those earning the lowest incomes had never been greater”.

Anglicare said demand for its services had surged, with 50 per cent of charity services growing by one-third or more.

Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers said the data “confirmed what Australians already know”.

“Living costs are spiralling. Essentials like food and transport are shooting up, and housing is more expensive than ever,” Ms Chambers said.

She said the report demonstrated that charity was not a long-term fix for poverty and said a higher minimum income was needed to fix the crisis.

The report demanded dramatic reforms from the government, urging greater income support, increased rent assistance and more affordable housing.

“Without these reforms, the emergency relief system will continue to be treated as a Band-Aid solution to much deeper problems,” the report said.

The report said “intense” demand for rentals, a squeezed rental vacancy rate and low income and welfare support ensured that “there are almost no rentals affordable for people on low incomes, even those working full time and on the minimum wage.”

As a part of their summary findings, Anglicare said every respondent reported an increase in demand for emergency welfare services since the beginning of the year, with half of the respondents finding demands had increased from 10-20 per cent.

Anglicare said families and parents had become a “key client group” for emergency relief services, making up 40 per cent of clients, with the report suggesting the “number is growing”.

“This is a concerning trend, as single parent families are already among the households most likely to live in poverty,” the report said.

Anglicare said all respondents to the survey said a funding increase, in the range of 40-50 per cent, was required to meet the rising demand on their services, while additional data showed that 500,000 more social and affordable homes would be needed to tackle homelessness.

The report also called on changes to Commonwealth Rent Assistance, which is indexed to inflation rather than average rental costs.

“Because rents have been growing faster than CPI, the gap between rental costs and rent assistance payments has been growing,” the report said, citing a productivity report that noted rents had grown at more than twice the rate of the general cost of living from 1995 to 2019.

The report also called on income support payments to be increased, claiming that Australia has among the lowest income support payments “in the developed world”.

Last week, a report by the Australian Council of Social Services and the University of NSW showed 13.4 per cent of Australians were living below the poverty line.

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