Despite the hard work and commitment of AnglicareSA staff and volunteers and that of other organisations supporting vulnerable people in our community, there is an enormous unmet need for services across the South Australian community.
The seventh AnglicareSA Turn Away Census undertaken last month reported a 35 per cent increase in the recorded number of people turned away from AnglicareSA services relative to the last survey period six months ago.
Three hundred and twenty five people were turned away from AnglicareSA services throughout the week of the 26 -30 March affirming that the level of unmet need in the community is an ongoing social issue.
This census, for the third year in a row, highlighted two particular areas of need – emergency assistance and housing assistance – services many people on the Newstart allowance, among others, are seeking.
The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) Advocacy Week from 16 to 20 April coincides with the release of AnglicareSA’s Turn Away Census figures.
ACOSS is asking everyone to consider having to live on $35 a day because that is how much people who find themselves out of work have to depend on to put a roof over their heads, feed and clothe themselves and get around as they try to find paid work.
Anglicare CEO, Dr Lynn Arnold, says that over the past decade the number of people receiving unemployment benefits has declined dramatically but those unemployed people who receive the Newstart payment of $35 a day are often condemned to a life of poverty.
“Many Australians who lose their jobs and are forced to rely on the Newstart Allowance have to deal with the public perception that they don’t want to work and that they are not valuable members of society,” he says.
“The reality is quite different. The risk we face as a community is that by not supporting an increase in the Newstart Allowance, we are in essence accepting the permanent unemployability of many people.
“We are creating a permanent disconnected fringe in our society – disconnected from employment opportunities; disconnected from healthy lifestyle choices; disconnected from support services.
“The low rate of the Newstart Allowance condemns these people to housing stress, an inability to obtain even the most basic dental care, the inability to buy books and clothes and the inability to pay utility accounts on time,” Dr Arnold says.
Mitch Bouhalis is one of more than 45,000 people on the Newstart allowance in South Australia and says it is unrealistic to be able to survive on only $35 a day.
“I can’t live off Newstart, it’s too little, it’s just too hard,” Mitch says.
Mitch is 23 years old, has been homeless on and off for seven years and finds it hard to budget for basics like shelter and food with Newstart as his only income.
“It’s not enough money to survive, it’s really hard, I don’t’ have anything to fall back on,” Mitch says.
“I have to get a bus ticket, budget for food and then pay friends for accommodation for a night here and there so I’m left with nothing.”
Mitch is now being supported by Generate, an innovative AnglicareSA program working with young people and their families in the northern suburbs of Adelaide trying to break the cycle of long-term unemployment.
“The Generate team stay back late for me and are always working at it, flat tack, trying to get housing for me,” Mitch says.
“It would be heaps harder without them as they have been helping me with clothing, showering me, giving me food and helping me fill out the forms for housing.”
While the Anglicare Turn Away Census can never fully measure the level of need across South Australia, it does indicate the areas and levels of need that are not currently being met in the communities where AnglicareSA is already working hard to support those most vulnerable.
Turn Away Census Results:
- Throughout the week of 26 – 30 March 2012, a census was undertaken of people who requested assistance from AnglicareSA programs, but who were turned away without receiving the service they requested.
- While 23 programs across 14 sites reported being able to meet all demand for services throughout the census week, 325 people were turned away from AnglicareSA services, up from 241 during the previous census.
- Most clients who were turned away rarely left without some assistance and were usually referred onto other forms of immediate relief and services. Some programs found the only durable form of addressing client need was by building capacity through services wrapped around immediate emergency responses.
- Emergency assistance (51%) and housing assistance (17%) were the areas of greatest unmet need, as was the case in the previous five Turn Away Censi held in June 2009, February 2010, September 2010, March 2011 and September 2011.
- The census showed three main reasons for people being turned away from services:
- 33% were turned away due to the service or quota being full
- 21% because the service was not available at the site
- 21% were turned away because they were not eligible for the service
For more information, contact: Jenny Barrett: 0408 717 025, Charlotte Osland: 0458 458 076