Contributed from Western Australia
Showing a bit of leadership, the Uniting Church in Western Australia has called on the Federal Government to make an immediate commitment to increase Newstart and Youth Allowance payments to allow thousands of vulnerable Australians to live in dignity above the poverty line.
The call came out of the latest Annual Synod of the Church, held over the last weekend and came as a contribution to Anti-Poverty week, which will occur next October.
Rev Steve Francis, Moderator of the Uniting Church WA, said the current rate for Newstart and Youth Allowance was significantly below the ACOSS poverty line and change was needed urgently to help people break free of the poverty cycle.
“At Synod, we unanimously agreed to lobby the Federal Government to commit to an immediate process to increase Newstart and Youth Allowance payments to provide recipients with the resources to live above the poverty line,” Steve said.
“This increase is essential in order to safeguard the health and well being of individuals and families currently receiving these payments. Living in poverty is stressful and forces people to choose between essential items and services.
“Governments can afford a welfare system that isn’t below the poverty line when tax is paid by those who can afford it and we encourage efforts to ensure that all individuals and businesses pay their fair share of tax.”
The proposal was jointly brought by the Uniting Church Western Australia’s Social Justice Commission and community services agency, UnitingCare West.
“We acknowledge that there are growing pressures on WA households that are particularly challenging for people living below the poverty line, including the low minimum wage, rental affordability and rising electricity, water and public transport costs. The Social Justice Commission and UnitingCare West will continue to advocate for vulnerable people in the WA community to have fair supports provided,” Steve said.
A report released by the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) in October 2016 showed there were 731,300 children or 17.4 percent of all children in Australia living in poverty at the time, an increase of 2 percent over the past 10 years, from 2004 to 2014. The report found that nearly three million people were living in poverty in Australia in 2014, or 13.3 percent of the general population.
According to the Western Australian Council of Social Services (WACOSS), in 2016, ‘Figures indicate that 240,000 Western Australians live below the poverty line, with a further 150,000 at risk of financial hardship. These figures are likely to be an underestimate, as they do not take into account higher living costs in Western Australia.’