Welfare agency highlights need for anti-poverty strategy

THE almost 13% of Australians living in poverty are not to blame for their plight and are being let down by both sides of politics, welfare agency the St Vincent de Paul Society says.

The welfare agency has highlighted the need for an anti-poverty strategy in Australia and outlined a series of demands for the major parties on Thursday.

St Vincent De Paul chief executive John Falzon called on leaders Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott to come clean with their plans to "significantly reduce poverty", which affects more than 500,000 children.

"The members of the St Vincent de Paul Society cannot be silent about what we see every day in prosperous Australia, especially in the lead-up to a Federal Election. We can't remain silent about the people in our midst who live in a state of permanent recession, who have had the doors of opportunity slammed shut in their faces," Dr Falzon said.

"We reject the argument that people are to blame for their own poverty, or that poverty will decrease simply by making the economy stronger. In fact, we argue that we cannot build a strong and sustainable economy if we abandon 2.3 million people to a life of poverty."

Dr Falzon said an immediate $50 per week increase to the Newstart allowance would be a good step in addressing the issue.

He made the point Australia's unemployment benefit had not increased in real terms in almost 20 years.

"We support helping people into the paid workforce. The time has come, however, to abandon the foolish notion that forcing them into deeper poverty via the meagre rate of the Newstart payment, improves their chances of employment," he said.



The St Vincent de Paul Society is urging both sides of politics to:

  • Increase Newstart by $50 a week.
  • Introduce a method of indexing Social Security payments that will enable low-income households to keep up with cost of living increases.
  • Outline plans for effectively assisting people into employment
  • Abolish compulsory income management as a costly and paternalistic programme that fails to address the causes of poverty.
  • Increase Rent Assistance.
  • Outline plans to increase access to social and affordable housing.
  • Outline planned steps to meet the Homelessness White Paper target of halving all homelessness by 2020.
  • Commit to the full investment in school education as per the Better Schools Plan.
  • Protect and enhance the TAFE system
  • Increase the opportunities for students from low-income households to access tertiary education.