No new start: national economic & social impact survey

21 May 2014

Based on a nationwide survey of around 2,500 Salvation Army welfare clients, this report argues that the lives of those living on the margins are about to get even harder in light of the recent Federal budget.

Executive summary

This Economic and Social Impact Survey (ESIS) 2014 is the third consecutive report by The Salvation Army Australia into the levels of deprivation and disadvantage experienced by those within our communities who need to access Emergency Relief (ER) services. As a major provider of Emergency Relief (ER) services in Australia, The Salvation Army provides a safety net for many within the community who are struggling to make ends meet. In 2013, The Salvation Army provided ER to 156,913 people and their families across Australia, representing a total of 320,260 client contacts.1 The Salvation Army is a major provider of Emergency Relief (ER) services in Australia, providing a safety net for many within the community who are struggling to make ends meet. In the 2013-2014 financial year The Salvation Army contributed approximately $18 million of its own funds to support its 237 emergency relief and community support services across Australia.

ESIS 2014 provides a detailed analysis of 2,485 responses to the ESIS survey distributed through the 237 Salvation Army ER and community support services across Australia during February 2014.

The ESIS 2014 report reveals a disheartening picture of enduring and entrenched poverty and disadvantage within a core group within the Australian community. The Salvation Army is deeply concerned about increasing demand for services that will be subject to a reduction in funding as a result of the 2014 Federal Budget. Changes to Newstart and Youth Allowance will result in greater demand for services that The Salvation Army will increasingly struggle to provide.

The ESIS reports give voice to those most disadvantaged and disenfranchised within our communities, and advocates strongly for a more just and equitable approach to addressing the needs and disadvantage experienced by many. ESIS 2014 particularly highlights the situations and experiences of a number of specific groups:

  •  Individuals and families in receipt of the Newstart Allowance and Disability Support Pension
  •  Individuals and families in receipt of Disability Support Pension
  •  Individuals in receipt of the Newstart Allowance who have a disability or health problem,
  •  Single parents, and
  •  Asylum seekers and refugees.

As in previous ESIS reports, the children of these respondents continue to be deprived of essential items and services due to their parents lack of financial resources. ESIS 2014 shows that it is these groups who are doing it hardest within our communities, and their ongoing level of disadvantage and poverty continues to be of significant
concern to The Salvation Army.

ESIS 2014 respondents face constant stress associated with inadequate economic resources. They have no, or limited, options to mediate problems if they arise, and as a result are excluded from everyday resources, including access to services, and recreational and social experiences. Of great concern for families is the paucity of options to provide for their children when economic resources are so limited. The Salvation Army, through its extensive national network of emergency relief centres, corps, social programs and employment services provide a significant and comprehensive response to individual and community disadvantage.

In the same month that saw the release of the National Commission of Audit – Towards Responsible Government, and as the country moves to what is predicted to be an austere national budget that will see major changes to education, welfare and social structure spending, ESIS 2014 is a tangible reminder to those in government of people who will be most affected by the proposed changes. The Salvation Army, as one of Australia’s largest providers of welfare services, works on a daily basis with those most in need. Recognising that the support and services provided to the community by governments must be managed effectively and efficiently, the proposed changes and budgetary measures will, however, significantly impact those already disadvantaged and marginalised in the community, and only serves to increase and further consign individuals and families to a life of poverty.

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