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MEDIA RELEASE: Political action needed to tackle poverty in WA, Tues 28th Feb 2017

February 28, 2017

The community services sector says it is time that political parties in this election make clear what actions they will take to tackle poverty and inequality in WA.

WA Council of Social Service CEO Louise Giolitto said that “WA has more than 240,000 people living below the poverty line and the highest level of income inequality in the country. This is an intolerable situation and yet neither of the major parties have made clear how or if they intend to do something about it.”

“Those on the lowest incomes in our community have been thrown under the bus for too long in the name of budget repair and the interests business.”

“Since the end of the mining boom, we have watched wages falling and jobs being lost. More and more people are doing it tough. We can’t afford to wait until WA is flush with money again in order to do something about it. Difficult economic times are exactly the moment at which it is most important for whoever is in government to invest in our community services.”

“Across the world, we are seeing the consequences of the political class’s failure to take action on income inequality and entrenched disadvantage.”

“We need to see a serious investment in social housing in this state. We need funding for financial counsellors to be reinstated and increased. We need to make sure everyone is able to access high quality health and legal services, regardless of where they live or what they earn.”

Bev Jowle, Executive Officer of the Financial Counsellors Association of WA said that after the decision to axe half the funding of Financial Counselling Services at the same time as an economic downturn in WA, services are now unable to cope with unprecedented demand for financial counselling in WA.

“West Australians in financial hardship are getting into more debt by taking out short term loans to pay for basic services such as electricity and gas, school fees and household expenses. This compounds their financial situation with many of these loans attracting high interest rates and fees.”

“The National Debt Helpline 1800 number in WA is receiving over 60 calls per day from people desperate to deal with the financial hardship they are experiencing and many of these calls go unanswered with only four staff able to help.”

“Some Financial Counselling services in the metropolitan area are now not taking bookings until March and many only book appointments two weeks ahead as the demand is so high. Financial Counsellors are also having to help increasing numbers of people to stop having their utilities being disconnected.”

“Financial hardship can include very complex negotiations with credit providers and underlying issues such as unemployment or change in job status, family and domestic violence, homelessness, mental health, drug and alcohol and gambling can contribute to this difficulty.”

“The previous funding for the Financial Counselling Services sector must be restored as a matter of priority and consideration given to expanding existing services to cope with demand.”

Ms Giolitto concluded by saying “an inclusive, just and equitable society doesn’t have to be a dream. With the political will, we can make it a reality.”

The WA Council of Social Service, the Financial Counsellors’ Association of WA and the State Emergency Relief Committee are hosting a Poverty & Inequality election forum at 9am Wednesday March 1 at City West Lotteries House, 2 Delhi Street, West Perth. 

 

Media Contacts:

Louise Giolitto, WACOSS CEO                               Bev Jowle, FCAWA Executive Officer
Phone 9486 7966 or 0411 534 911                     0499 014 382