National poverty action call
THE Northern Rivers Social Development Council (NRSDC) is joining a nationwide call for action to address poverty.
NRSDC chief executive Tony Davies said according to data from the 2006 census, the electorates of Page and Richmond were ranked the 4th and 5th poorest in NSW, with 20,627 and 19,259 people respectively living on less than 50% of the median disposable household income - the accepted poverty line.
Across the region a lack of affordable housing, limited and expensive public transport and under-employment were contributing factors to high levels of poverty.
Under-employment is when a person has a job but may not work enough hours to meet the cost of living or may be over-qualified for the job they are working.
Mr Davies said the cost of transport in Lismore was more than double the cost in Sydney, with a bus fare from Goonellabah to Lismore costing about $5.20, compared to a journey of a similar distance between Glebe and Sydney city costing $2.
Another issue was the low rate of government payments such as Newstart Allowance, Austudy and Youth Allowance, which were as much as $180 per week less than the single pension.
"The Henry Tax Review and the Tax Summit called for an increase of $50 per week to these payments," Mr Davies said.
Mr Davies said people on Newstart Allowance often could not afford to get to work.
"They can't run cars, so sometimes they can't even get to interviews," he said.
"We need more effective and intensive support."
NRSDC supports the call for increased government payments, but said a national strategy and a co-ordinated response was also required to address the problem.
Currently the issue was being dealt with across a number of Federal and State agencies.
Mr Davies said an approach similar to the National Homeless Action Plan, which is a strategy to halve the number of homeless by 2020.
Last week, the Australian Council of Social Service launched its Poverty Report 2011 which provided evidence of growing inequality in Australia, with more people hitting hard times and falling into poverty.
What is poverty?
- Poverty is a relative concept used to describe the people in a society who cannot afford the essentials that others take for granted.
- While many Australians juggle payment of bills, people living in poverty have to make difficult choices, such as skipping a meal to pay for a child's textbooks.
- People living in poverty not only have low levels of income; they also miss out on opportunities and resources that most take for granted, such as adequate health and dental care, housing, education, employment opportunities, food and recreation.