The St Vincent de Paul Society National Council says new figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics this week reflect the rising cost of living pressures and increased financial stress being experienced by Australians.
The Bureau’s Life on Struggle Street report found close to a third (31 %) of low economic resource households reported being unable to pay a utility bill on time in the past 12 months.
In addition, 10% of low economic resource households were forced to seek assistance from welfare or community organisations, compared with 1% of other households.
“We know that key indicators of financial stress include being able to pay the bills on time and save for a rainy day and it is heartbreaking to see more people struggling to do this,” Chief Executive Dr John Falzon said.
“Vinnies has certainly seen an increase in demand for our services. Our figures for 2010-11 show that most people coming to us for help are doing so for food vouchers, closely followed by assistance with energy bills and debt management.”
This week Dr Falzon and other community sector leaders are attending the 2012 Australian Council of Social Service Conference (ACOSS) in Sydney from March 29 to 30.
ACOSS member organisations are campaigning for an increase in the rate of allowances, such as Newstart and Youth Allowance, as a measure to alleviate poverty.
Australia has the lowest unemployment payment in the OECD. The Newstart allowance rate has remained unchanged since 1994 and requires people to live on $35 a day.
“You don’t help people get into jobs by forcing them to live in poverty. By leaving the unemployment benefit at this low level that’s exactly what the Government’s doing,” Dr Falzon said.
“There’s no question that the current situation is undermining the ability of many Australians to fully participate in education, access healthcare, feel socially included and care for their families,” National President Anthony Thornton said.