ACT News

Poverty hits 10 per cent of ACT households

ACT Council of Social Service director Roslyn Dundas.
ACT Council of Social Service director Roslyn Dundas. Photo: Supplied.

About 10 per cent of Canberran households are living in poverty as incomes fail to match rising costs of living in the nation's capital, a new report claims.

The Cost of Living Report, compiled by the ACT Council of Social Service, found that the price of essentials such as utility services and food had increased beyond the means of some low- or fixed-income families in Canberra over the past five years.

ACTCOSS director Roslyn Dundas said the plight of Canberrans on low incomes was often overshadowed by the higher-than-average incomes in the area.

''Cost of living remains a pertinent issue for far too many ACT residents,'' Ms Dundas said. ''Approximately 10 per cent of Canberrans face difficult choices every day, low incomes not stretching as far in high-cost Canberra as they might elsewhere, and this is putting increased strain on local community services.''

Research by the service released earlier this week defined the standard poverty line as 50 per cent of equivalised disposable income, set at $505 a week or $26,350 a year in the ACT.

The report, to be launched today as part of Anti-Poverty Week 2012, stated that about 10 per cent of Canberran households made this figure or less.

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Ms Dundas said not all Canberrans received adequate increases in wages or allowances to meet the rising cost of living in the capital, forcing them to cut out some essentials.

''When families feel cost of living pressures bearing down, they will look for ways in which to save money, and people's health can then suffer,'' she said.

The report stated that while many households were not categorised as struggling, even one change in circumstances could push them over the threshold into poverty.

Compiled from data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the most recent Household Expenditure Survey and local studies, the report stated about 20,000 households in Canberra earned less than $650 a week.

The price of housing was one of the largest concerns outlined the report, following an increase of 25.3 per cent in the consumer price index since 2007.

These rising costs have forced about 5270 Canberran households into spending more than 30 per cent of their incomes on housing.

''This is a reflection of a difficult-to-enter housing market in the ACT, one which is nearly impossible to participate in for families on low incomes,'' the report states.

''Research indicates people struggling with housing affordability often have to 'cut back on the necessities of life, including food'.''

Increasing costs of both public transport and vehicle use were also detailed in the report, with ACTCOSS urging further investment to meet the transport needs of the growing Canberra population.

''The layout of the ACT means sustainable transport needs to be addressed to support people to overcome disadvantage,'' the report states.

''Inadequate access to transport makes it harder to get a job, access education, see a doctor, or do the grocery shopping.''

It stated that urban transport fares had risen by 17.9 per cent since 2007, while rises in the cost of driving - such as of 2.6 per cent in licence fees and 3.5 per cent for registering a vehicle - had been outlined in the 2012-13 ACT budget.

Other areas of concern were health and food, which have recorded cost increases of more than 27 per cent and 14 per cent respectively since the June quarter 2007.

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