Across the nation charities and welfare agencies have seen more people falling into the demographic known as the ‘working poor’, holding down jobs but unable to make ends meet.
For drug and alcohol counsellor Joanna MacDougall, fortnightly ‘bill-wrangling’ is a regrettable, stressful ritual.
Late last year her hours of employment were cut by 10 per cent, reducing her monthly income by around $800.
“It’s all you think about: How am I going to make ends meet? You feel guilty as a mother – you can’t give your kids what you want – you have to think about even buying milk, “ Ms MacDougall says.
Charity group Kildonan Uniting Care says Ms MacDougall’s story epitomises the changing face of economic hardship – people who work but who are still unable to pay their bills.
“It’s all you think about: How am I going to make ends meet?”
Less than five years ago 95 per cent of people seeking financial counselling at Kildonan were Centrelink clients. Now, 30 per cent of the clients in financial strife are employed with a mortgage
In the past year, the service has seen a 100 per cent increase in people seeking support to pay energy bills.
Chief Executive Stella Avramopoulos says the charity is joining with corporations and government agencies to explore the benefits of a collaborative approach.
“The issues underlining poverty are complex and multi-facetted and no one sector or no one government on their own can do all the heavy lifting,” Ms Avramopoulos says.
The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) Chief Executive Cassandra Goldie says housing affordability is far and away the most important issue confronting the so-called “working poor”
“Firstly increase the Commonwealth rent assistance to ease the pressure on renters on low incomes – we want to see the government make changes to negative gearing and capital gains arrangements,” Ms Goldie says.
Ms Goldie is also calling for further incentives for property developers to create more affordable housing.
One area tipped to offer some relief for low-income families is the child care sector.