Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

$12 million to support vulnerable Australians

The Australian Government is providing $12 million over two years for additional emergency financial assistance for those struggling most with the impact of the global economic downturn.

This week is Anti-Poverty Week, which focuses Australia’s attention on the causes and consequences of poverty.

This announcement highlights the Government’s commitment to provide continuing support for Australians who have been hardest hit in tough times.

Initial projects in Victoria will include targeted emergency relief for homeless people in inner Melbourne and sole parents in the outer suburbs of Melbourne.

In New South Wales, emergency relief funding will be available for organisations working directly with newly-arrived humanitarian entrants who have settled in Sydney’s outer suburbs.

It is important to target assistance to the organisations which have an ongoing relationship with these groups – who are often reluctant to approach mainstream emergency relief services for help.

Over the coming months, other emergency relief projects will be identified across Australia to target vulnerable groups, such as Indigenous Australians, families experiencing mortgage stress and older people.

A new survey of 1650 Australian families undertaken by my Department has revealed that almost 34 per cent consider their financial circumstances deteriorated in the first six months of the year as a result of the global financial crisis.

During that period, around 21 per cent reported levels of hardship which meant they could not pay their electricity, gas and telephone bills and 15 per cent were forced to ask for help from friends and family.

Of families who were unable to pay their rent or mortgage on time, around 77 per cent were experiencing this hardship for the first time in the last six months. Of those families who had gone without meals, 70.3 per cent had experienced it for the first time in the previous six months.

The Government has acted quickly to support Australians through tough economic times.

Our economic stimulus was designed to support jobs and small businesses in the face of a savage global recession, and it’s helped us achieve outcomes like last week’s better than expected unemployment number.

And from March 2009 to June 2011, emergency relief funding has been doubled, with an additional $80.4 million. This will help an estimated one million people each year.

The Government will also fund the development of a new common assessment tool which will provide a practical checklist to help front-line workers identify broader issues impacting on a client’s financial security, such as housing issues, mental health or relationship problems.

This will help emergency relief organisations link families and individuals with other services they need, such as financial counselling, family support, mental health and employment services.

The tool will be available free of charge to emergency relief organisations.