More people caught in grip of poverty cycle
THE Salvation Army's Pam Cooper comes face to face with the grinding poverty in which some people in Bundaberg live almost every day.
Mrs Cooper said she was not surprised by an Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) report that found 12.8% of Australians were living below the poverty line in 2010.
Mrs Cooper, who looks after legal and community services for the Salvos in Bundaberg, said she had been doing welfare sessions for the organisation in the past few weeks.
"On Friday we had to turn away 15 people we couldn't help because we didn't have the funds," she said.
"We did see 21 people, but it's very hard to turn people away."
Yesterday was Mrs Cooper's day off, but she said she had still had four phone calls and three visits from people asking for help.
"Because there is a greater call for our help we have to give everybody less," she said.
Mrs Cooper said they were seeing a greater percentage of people who had never sought welfare help before.
"They're mortified by having to come in, but they just can't manage," she said.
Mrs Cooper said the problem of living in poverty was that it would affect children in the future.
"Certain parents might be less fastidious in sending their children to school because they are so taken up with just surviving," she said.
"They can't afford to get things like shoes for school, so the kids suffer. Life just becomes a struggle."
At the Salvation Army's Tom Quinn community centre, which aims to get many people back into work, community services manager Tom Osborne said their funding from the State Government might have stopped but the demand for their services had not.
The centre lost its funding from the government when the budget was handed down in September.
"Since the government changed there has been a major change in our sphere of operations," Mr Osborne said.
"We still have the same number of people coming through the doors looking for help."
Until the State Government cut its the funding cuts, the Tom Quinn Centre ran programs helping to get people back into work so they could escape the poverty trap.
"We don't have the resources at the moment to do that, but we're trying other options," he said.
"We desperately need to keep functioning to help (people living in poverty)."
The Poverty and Inequality in Australia report, the first in a series, used an international standard to determine the poverty line (50% of median income).
For a single adult it was $358 per week and for a couple with two children it was $752.
More than 50% of Newstart Allowance recipients were living below the line and two-thirds had been unemployed for more than a year.
The single age pension is $716 a fortnight, or $356 a week, which is also just below the poverty benchmark set in the study.
ACOSS chief executive officer Dr Cassandra Goldie said it was simply unacceptable that one in eight people were suffering from poverty despite years of unprecedented growth and wealth creation.
"It is simply unacceptable that so many people are still going without the basics," she said.