RELEASED October 17, 2021
The pandemic has caused huge hurt to regional communities and Australia must find ways to lift people out of the poverty – that’s the message of community services organisation, Social Futures, during Anti-Poverty Week (October 17 -23).
Social Futures CEO Tony Davies said Covid19 has caused rolling lockdowns, job losses and steep rises in rents and house prices, meaning lower income areas, and particularly regional towns, were hurting.
“People who were already struggling before Covid arrived are now bearing the brunt of the economic fallout of the pandemic and that’s just not fair,” Mr Davies said.
“We may not have endured the lengthy lockdowns of Sydney and Melbourne, but regional Australia has not been spared pain. Regional towns, dependent on tourism, have suffered because of the capital city lockdowns – many people have seen their incomes fall.
“On top of that unprecedented numbers of people are exiting cities and moving to the regions. This puts added strain on regional housing markets leading to rising levels of homelessness in our communities.”
Spokesperson for the national Everybody’s Home campaign, Kate Colvin, said the pandemic had had a huge impact on northern NSW.
“The Northern Rivers region really is in the eye of the housing storm,” Ms Colvin said. “Housing stress was already acute before the pandemic, but now tree and seachangers with well paid ‘Zoom’ jobs are pricing out long-term renters.
“The only response that will work is a serious expansion of social and affordable housing, that gives people on low and modest incomes greater choice and security.”
Social Futures’ Tony Davies Davies said too people were in dire need and risked falling into poverty – he was also concerned that the government was winding back the Disaster Payment when vaccination rates hit 70 then 80%.
“The New South Wales electorate of Richmond, on the Queensland border, has seen a big increase in people needing income support (the Coronavirus Supplement),” he said. “It ranks in the top 20% of electorates in need.
“In Anti-Poverty week I want to remind the community that there is no need to leave anyone behind and no advantage to our society forcing children, young people and families to live in poverty.” Mr Davies said Social Futures backed the national Raise the Rate campaign, which called for all social security recipients to receive an income of at least $67 a day. The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) said in regional NSW, the number of people struggling to get by on income support has skyrocketed since the beginning of the pandemic.
“And to make matters worse, with the COVID Disaster Support Payments set to end in the coming weeks, more people could be forced onto the grossly inadequate $45 a day Jobseeker rate,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.
“If we’re going to ensure that no one gets left behind during this recovery, we need our government to urgently pass legislation lifting working age income support payments to at least $67 a day.”
Social Futures is also calling on state and federal governments to address the regional housing crisis, which included giving a better deal for renters, adopting a national housing strategy and supporting those suffering chronic rent stress.
• The Everybody’s Home campaign is asking Australians to sign a petition that calls on politicians to fix the broken housing market: https://everybodyshome.com.au/petition