Poverty is a growing problem in Australia, with one in eight people, including one in six children, currently living in poverty – and the first step in dealing with poverty is to better understand it.
At the end of last year, the Federal Government directed the Senate Community Affairs References Committee to undertake an Inquiry into poverty in Australia.
The Inquiry is due to report by 31 October 2023.
Poverty is an issue our clients know too well, and our staff see its impact daily. That’s why SSRV is making a submission to the Inquiry.
For people living in poverty an issue arising with social security payments or a debt raised by Centrelink can be a mental and emotional load simply too great to bear.
Often by the time a person calls us, a Centrelink issue has been left unactioned for some time, not because the recipient has been remiss, but because when your mind is on how you are going to feed your children tomorrow, everything else tends to fall by the wayside.
For people experiencing poverty, actually working to resolve a Centrelink issue can be particularly difficult. For example, while Centrelink may send some correspondence through the MyGov app, other correspondence is required to be sent by post. People experiencing homelessness or moving from one temporary accommodation to another are at risk of missing important information and essential time limits.
What we also know is that the social security system itself can exacerbate poverty.
Often debt repayments are automatically set to unreasonably high fortnightly amounts. There is often little consideration given to the fact that Centrelink income support payments are often received by people living below the poverty line, and fortnightly deductions in addition can cause severe financial distress.
Some income support payments also carry mutual obligations that the recipient is required to shoulder the financial burden of meeting, such as travelling to appointments with service providers.
Other payments, such as the Disability Support Pension, have stringent eligibility criteria which rely upon doctor appointments being attended and medical evidence being obtained by the applicant.
The Poverty Inquiry has been charged with examining the extent and nature of poverty in Australia with particular reference to:
- The rates and drivers of poverty in Australia;
- The relationship between economic conditions (including fiscal policy, rising inflation and cost of living pressures) and poverty;
- The impact of poverty on individuals in relation to employment outcomes, housing security, health outcomes, and education outcomes;
- The impacts of poverty amongst different demographics and communities;
- The relationship between income support payments and poverty;
- Mechanisms to address and reduce poverty; and
- Any other related matters.
SSRV is not able to share our submission to the Poverty Inquiry until it has been approved by the Inquiry, but when we can, we’ll let you know.
Meanwhile, if you, or someone you are helping, have been issued with a Centrelink debt that you disagree with, if Centrelink has organised a payment plan causing you financial distress, or if you are having difficulty accessing a Centrelink payment, you can call us today. Most Centrelink decisions can be appealed and repayment plans can be negotiated to be more manageable.