Time to Stand Against Poverty: Anti-Poverty Week 2018

This year, UnitingCare West is asking West Australians to consider what we can each do as caring citizens to reach out to people in our community who are experiencing hardship of some sort – to give people a hand up, not just a hand out.

Throughout the week, UCW will call on people who access its services, staff, partner organisations and the wider community to answer the questions:  What does poverty mean to you?’ and What’s your big idea to help end poverty?’ and then consider what we can do about this, as a community that cares.

UCW CEO Amanda Hunt said the #StandAgainstPoverty project was an opportunity to hear and amplify the voices of people in WA who are experiencing hardship, gather feedback about how poverty affects us as a community and take action to address it.

“Our own research has shown us that a lack of community awareness, understanding and support, combined with a mix of economic and locational disadvantage, is where families are most vulnerable to entrenched poverty,” Ms Hunt said.

“Based on our findings, UCW is taking a place-based approach to the way we provide services; enabling localised, integrated support to make sure the people we serve have a better life.

“It’s important to know that regardless of what postcode you live in, financial stress and vulnerability can come about suddenly as a result of illness, a marriage breakdown, or losing a job. Those born into a life of entrenched disadvantage have less chance of escaping these circumstances.”

Ms Hunt said the Financial Counselling Network (FCN), which UCW co-leads with Anglicare WA, sees hundreds of families and individuals every month who would ordinarily be financially secure, but due to circumstances, are struggling to pay utilities or provide school supplies for their children.

“Many of these people fall into the category of the ‘working poor’ – those who are under-employed, or whose wages or government support payments aren’t keeping pace with the rising cost of living.

“Changes to Federal welfare policy moving single parent households onto Newstart Allowance – which is completely inadequate – have dramatically increased the number of children growing up in entrenched poverty,” she added.

Ms Hunt said in the six months between January and June 2018, FCN agencies saw 3,219 clients, with a total debt of $318,434,366. Of these people, 33 per cent were classified as being employed.

“Twenty-nine per cent* of these people came to us with an issue relating to losing their jobs, or being under-employed, while over half (56 per cent) were struggling to manage on a low, restricted or inadequate income,” Ms Hunt said.

“The rise of the ‘working poor’ continues to be a stark reminder of just how easily any one of us can find ourselves at risk of poverty and why it’s an issue we should all take a stand on.”

People needing financial support can contact UCW’s Financial Wellbeing Services on 9220 1255 or visit the FCN website: http://financialcounsellingnetwork.org.au/

To find out more about Anti-Poverty Week activities visit: https://www.antipovertyweek.org.au/

*A client may present to FCN with more than one issue.