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bringing you the Salvos' unified approach to meeting people's needs

e-connect communicates what the Salvos do through social programs and advocacy

    welcome to this months edition of econnect


Homing in on the problem

The Salvation Army has conducted our annual national Economic and Social Impact Survey (ESIS) of the people who access our Emergency Relief services. We ask them to share their experiences of financial hardship, disadvantage and their daily challenges.  We have conducted ESIS for seven years; we are able to say that things aren’t getting any better for those who exist on some form of benefit. 

The ESIS 2018 surveyed 1267 clients, who also represented 1,470 children. More than one in 10 respondents are homeless or living in temporary accommodation; half of those people have been homeless for more than a year.  We know, that if you want someone’s life and health to improve, then a safe, stable home will help to address disadvantage. Without a home, it is so hard to get ‘sorted’; it can be too difficult for people to extricate themselves from poverty because they don’t have a place from which to launch themselves.

When I hear wealthy politicians say they could easily exist on the Newstart allowance, I think the most helpful and educational response would be to encourage them to have a go.  When you have individuals who earn hundreds of thousands of dollars a year commenting on someone who has to survive on $17 a day, it adds up to arrogance and a lack of empathy and understanding.

It is not easy to exist on $17 a day; which is what our Newstart recipients have to live on, once they’ve paid for their accommodation. That $17 has to cover food and clothing, pay for household bills, utilities, health care, transportation, etc. Some of us spend $17 a day on coffee. 

It is appalling to contemplate policy decisions being made – deciding what other people can and can’t do, or earn – without the decision-makers having any knowledge or understanding of the lives they are constricting.

ESIS tells us that more than two-thirds of people surveyed have said food affordability is their greatest daily challenge; two-thirds of our clients interviewed have skipped meals because they cannot afford to buy groceries. When nutrition becomes a luxury, what does it say about a nation?  That we have people going without basic meals, in a country that is as wealthy as ours… it is almost unimaginable to those of us who are doing reasonably well. The well-to-do grapple with this, sincerely, in terms of comprehending what others are going through. People think, ‘That can’t be true – this is Australia… that can’t be right.’ But it is.

Do you know why people are homeless in this country? Almost 60% of the surveyed households with children have had to move their kids to a different school because of family violence. The Australian Bureau of Statistics says 30% of housing for women is because of FDV. Without a safe, stable home, kids miss out on being able to trust and know that they are cared for; the disruption of moving kids from school to school, location to location, having to flee…

Family violence is akin to living in a war zone. You never know when the bomb’s going to drop. You never know when you are going to have to run, or where you are going to run to. That creates a deep instability in your mental health, in your ability to cope and to earn a living.

Major Jenny BegentWe need informed policy, and informed leaders. Right now it appears we have neither.  Again and again we have to educate our politicians about the root causes of poverty and what it takes to address them. We need to change the reality for homeless Australians. This is Australia, and we are neglecting, starving our children and our vulnerable people. 

Instead of giving them a helping hand we are punishing them for being poor; it’s nowhere near good enough. Major Jenny Begent, The Salvation Army’s national head of social mission


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