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.