The Whittlesea Community Connections emergency relief survey for 2014 paints a comprehensive picture of the level of need in one of Australia’s fastest growing urban communities.
Whittlesea Community Connections (WCC) is an independent community service agency based in Epping, Victoria, which operates services and programs across the City of Whittlesea. Established in one of Victoria’s most culturally diverse communities, WCC has a long track record in service delivery, partnership development and the promotion of equity and access for disadvantaged members of Whittlesea’s communities.
Whittlesea Community Connections has more than 17 years’ experience in responding to the community’s financial vulnerability through emergency relief and other services and programs. Many of the users of emergency relief are not only impacted by periodic income vulnerability but also by broad ranging and intergenerational poverty, social deprivation and the risk of homelessness and social exclusion.
Emergency relief survey
Whittlesea Community Connections has been providing Emergency Relief (ER) services since July 1997 and is one of the main providers of ER to the City of Whittlesea.
Located on Melbourne’s northern urban fringe, the City of Whittlesea ranks sixth (out of 31 Metropolitan LGAs) for SEIFA disadvantage and has the third fastest population growth in Victoria. The City of Whittlesea forecasts the current population will increase by 16 per cent in the next four years and by 71 per cent by 2035. Whittlesea is one of Victoria’s most diverse areas with over a third of residents born overseas and more people from non-English speaking backgrounds than Greater Melbourne (GM) (31.4 per cent compared to 24 per cent).
WCC’s ER assistance is provided in the form of a cash cheque for those who are in financial hardship. This assistance is for people within the City of Whittlesea and eligibility is normally restricted to no more than once every 4 months. In the last 4 years WCC has provided ER on 7,064 occasions, and assisted a further 676 clients with more than 2,549 individual casework sessions.
42.3% Could not afford a hobby or leisure activity for their children
30.2% Could not afford early dental check ups
28.2% No up to date school clothes/books
27.5% Could not participate in school activities or outings
26.2% No separate bedroom for children over 10 years of age
The emergency relief survey explores the difficulties residents of the City of Whittlesea who, for one reason or another, are unable to meet their basic living needs or who have particular vulnerability to unexpected life events that place them under difficult-to-manage financial strain.
The key findings from the 245 people who were supported by Whittlesea Community Connections Emergency Relief services were”
- Over two thirds of respondents were female
- Almost a half of respondents ( 44 per cent) were born overseas
- The main income source of respondents include Disability Support Pension (25.5 per cent), Newstart Allowance (20.3 per cent), Status Resolution Support Services payment(SRSS) (19.9 per cent), Parenting Payment Single (12.5 per cent) and Carer Allowance (5.6 per cent)
- The survey highlighted the extent of poverty among emergency relief recipients with almost half (44.4 per cent) with incomes less than $400 per week
- The most commonly identified costs causing financial hardship were food expenses (68.8 per cent), electricity (63.2 per cent), housing costs and gas (54.2 per cent)
- The most common reasons for seeking ER was housing costs (56.6%)
- This has more than doubled since 2010 (25.8 per cent)
- The median weekly housing cost was between $225 and $299
- Respondents living in private rental accommodation were most likely to be spending more than 75 per cent of their family income on housing costs (30.6 per cent)
- Over 7 per cent of survey respondents indicated that a member of their household has gambled regularly within the last 12 months with losses more than they can afford
- 10 per cent of survey respondents indicated that as far as they knew, someone in their household had regularly used substances/drugs in the previous 12 months
- 17 per cent of survey respondents indicated that a member of their household had been affected by family violence in the preceding 12 months
- 45 per cent of respondents indicated that a member of their household had received therapy or counselling for mental health in the previous year.
The evidence gathered in this report tells a worrying tale of individuals and families who are spending so much on housing they are unable to meet their needs for other essentials. Additionally it reveals new arrivals in the first years of the settlement process have yet to develop the networks and knowledge to successfully establish financial resilience. Many asylum seekers are living locally and are struggling with daily living without the support of agencies. It tells of the disproportionate burden of poverty placed on women, particularly women who are single-heads of households. The survey also tells of the enormous gap between demand for support and the capacity to respond to that demand.