Child poverty on the rise

child Nearly 30 years ago, former Prime Minister Bob Hawke declared he wanted no Australian child living in poverty by 1990.

But more children live under the poverty line today compared to a decade ago, according to a new report released by ACOSS (Australian Council of Social Service).

The report, prepared by ACOSS in collaboration with the Social Policy Research Centre at UNSW, provides a sobering snapshot of the state of poverty in Australia.

Almost 3 million people –13.3 per cent of the Australian population – live below the internationally accepted poverty line. In Australia, this is equivalent to less than $426.30 a week for a single adult.

“Long-term analysis indicates an overall trend of persistent and entrenched poverty over the decade,” the report stated.

“Of most concern, there was a 2 per cent increase in child poverty from 2004 to 2014, with the trend most pronounced for children in lone-parent families.”

According to the report, 731,300 children under the age of 15 (17.4 per cent of all children) currently live below the poverty line. More than 40 per cent of children raised by single parents are experiencing poverty.

ACOSS believes changes to welfare eligibility over the past decade were partly to blame for the increase in single-parent households living in poverty.

The 2006 Welfare to Work legislation resulted in approximately 20,000 single parents moving from Parenting Payment to the lower Newstart Allowance. In 2013, all remaining single parents whose youngest child had turned eight were also moved to Newstart.

“This resulted in a typical loss of income for the poorest lone-parent families of $60 per week and affected 80,000 lone parents,” the report said.

The majority of people below the poverty line relied on social security as their main source of income (57.3 per cent) and 55 per cent of those receiving Newstart Allowance continue to experience poverty.

Writing in The Mercury, UnitingCare Tasmania CEO Lindy O’Neill said raising the Newstart allowance is an important first step towards addressing intergenerational poverty.

“How often do you hear politicians comment that a proposed change in policy or tax is ‘only $5 a day, the price of a cup of coffee? What if that cup of coffee actually represented two-thirds of the cost of your daily food intake?’ she said.

“After people living on Newstart have paid their rent and other living expenses, such as power, this is what they have to live on: $7.60 a day.”

In Tasmania, 96 per cent of adults seeking emergency relief are unable to afford sufficient food for a healthy diet. The overwhelming majority of people in these households are on some form of government pension or allowance.

“In Anti-Poverty Week, we are calling on all levels of government — federal, state and local — to band together to change these statistics,” Ms O’Neill said.

“As a starting point, we need to raise Newstart.”

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