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ESIS survey paints bleak picture for struggling Australians

ESIS survey paints bleak picture for struggling Australians

ESIS survey paints bleak picture for struggling Australians

24 May 2017

The Salvation Army’s 2017 ESIS survey reveals a picture of hardship for families in need across Australia.

By Lauren Martin

The Salvation Army’s national snapshot of disadvantage has revealed the true extent of hardship on clients and their families.

2017 is the sixth year The Salvation Army has been producing its Economic and Social Impact Statement (ESIS) – the results of an extensive survey of more than 1000 clients.

Nearly 70 per cent of respondents admit that getting enough food to eat is a daily challenge, and 66 per cent report living under extreme housing stress. Single parents with children are the hardest hit, with many living off just $14.35 a day.

The Salvation Army’s Australia Eastern Territory Communications and Fundraising Director, Leigh Cleave, says despite Australia being a wealthy country by international standards, the demand on Salvo services is greater than ever.

“As a country, we have never been richer. Across the board, our standard of living continues to improve in almost every category. But these gains and opportunities have not been distributed fairly, with millions of Australians living on the margins.

“We like to think of Australia as the land of the ‘fair go’, but unless people are willing to go the extra mile to help those in need, this idea will become a relic of the past.”

Joanne Siale, a single mum who is also a carer for her disabled mother, knows full well how hard it is to get by on government benefits. She tries to keep her visits to The Salvation Army for emergency assistance down to once a year, knowing that there are others also in need of assistance.

When she met retired Salvation Army officer, Major Hilton Harmer, and he invited her to attend his monthly food service, she jumped at the opportunity to supplement her weekly income with free groceries. “Some things are so expensive in the stores,” she says. “Here, I’ve gotten gorgeous mangoes and meat, it’s like Christmas!”

Joanne now volunteers at the service as a way of giving back. “If you ever won the lotto you’re going to make a huge donation to the Salvos, you know what I mean? They’re a brilliant, brilliant mob and they don’t judge. They don’t look at you and your lifestyle, or anything that you’ve done or haven’t done. They’re just the most brilliant people, they really are.”

The Salvation Army’s 2017 ESIS survey shows 66 per cent of respondents are living in extreme housing stress and use more than half their income on accommodation expenses. As house prices continue to climb in Australia, The Salvation Army is seeing the flow-on effect – rent increases that are pushing low-income families into homelessness. “Our people can’t even afford to pay rent, let alone consider the ‘great Australian dream’ of home ownership,” says Leigh.

The statistics represent real people and real families. For households with children aged 17 and under, almost one in five can’t afford medical treatments or medicines and half can’t afford up-to-date school items or pay for children to attend school activities. Two in five Salvation Army clients surveyed said they can’t afford fresh fruit and vegetables every day.

“Children are going to school hungry,” Leigh says. “Parents cannot provide nutritious food for their growing bodies and minds. This level of poverty doesn’t just have an impact now, it will impact future generations because, through no fault of their own, these children aren’t being given the opportunity to reach their full potential. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.”

The statistics are being released in the lead-up to this weekend’s Red Shield Appeal Doorknock (27-28 May), during which The Salvation Army aims to raise $8 million.

“What we have to remember is that these aren’t statistics – every single number in this survey represents a real person, real families,” Leigh says. “Too many Australians are under enormous financial pressure and are having to make daily decisions about which basic necessity they go without. ‘Should I pay the rent or buy food for my family?’ That’s not a choice any Australian should be faced with, but our clients wrestle with it all the time.”

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