Children being left behind

unitingcareOne in six Australians under the age of 14 live in poverty, with children in Victoria and Tasmania particularly at risk of social exclusion, a new UnitingCare Australia report has revealed.

UnitingCare Australia, in partnership with the University of Canberra and the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, launched the Child Social Exclusion, Poverty and Disadvantage in Australia report to mark the start of Anti-Poverty Week.

The report analysed the 2016 Census and other data using the Child Social Exclusion Index, which captures social and material disadvantage across five domains: socio-economic, education, connectedness, health services and housing.

“Being excluded hurts children, families and the community. This report provides strong arguments for holistic, preventative responses so that parents, carers and communities can better play their part in raising our children” UnitingCare Australia National Director Claerwen Little said.

“Disadvantage is much more than just poverty or lack of financial security. Limited social engagement, connection, access and opportunity are equally detrimental to health and wellbeing”.

According to the report, 17.2 per cent of children under 14 live in a household below the poverty line, defined as living on an income at or below $327 per week for a household.

Excluding the Northern Territory, the highest rates of child poverty occurred in Victoria outside greater Melbourne (23.1 per cent) and in NSW outside Sydney (18.9 per cent).

The report found that housing stress and labour market changes contributed to “highly persistent” rates of social exclusion in at-risk areas.

In 87 per cent of local communities with the highest risk of child social exclusion there was no improvement between the 2011 and 2016 Census.

The Northern Territory had the highest incidence of children at risk of social exclusion (43.1 per cent), followed by Tasmania (34.1 per cent) and South Australia (26 per cent).

Australia’s capital cities offered a spectrum of contrasting conditions, with distinct neighbourhood clusters at high risk of child social exclusion and other communities where the risk is very low.

The report recommended significant government investment and action to improve resources to tackle social exclusion.

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