Anti-Poverty Week: ‘Working poor’ families of Perth call for help with mounting debt

Stock image.
Stock image.

A NEW class of working poor is beginning to emerge in WA, with newly-released debt figures showing thousands of families are struggling to make ends meet.

The data, released by Uniting Care West (UCW) ahead of Anti-Poverty Week this week, shows that in the six months to June 2018, more than 3200 people across Perth turned to a financial counselling service to try to make ends meet.

Merriwa has emerged as the area with the highest total amount of debt, followed by Rockingham, Midland, Perth and Belmont.

Joondalup, Success, Girrawheen and Fremantle also featured highly on the list of areas with the most debt owed by clients.

The Financial Counselling Network is a partnership of community service organisations and local governments that stretches across the Perth metropolitan area, led by UCW and Anglicare WA.

UCW chief executive Amanda Hunt said regardless of the postcodes in which people lived, financial stress and vulnerability could come in an instant due to illness, relationship breakdowns or job losses.

Many of the 3219 people that approached the financial counselling services in the six months to June fell into the category of ‘working poor’.

Ms Hunt said these people were “under-employed, or their wages or government support payments aren’t keeping pace with the rising cost of living.”

“Changes to Federal welfare policy moving single parent households onto Newstart Allowance – which is completely inadequate – have dramatically increased the number of children growing up in entrenched poverty,” she said.

The figures also showed that clients who used financial counselling services in this time owed a total amount of $318,434,366.

“The rise of the ‘working poor’ continues to be a stark reminder of just how easily any one of us can find ourselves at risk of poverty and why it’s an issue we should all take a stand on,” Ms Hunt said.

WHAT: Anti-Poverty Week

WHEN: October 14 to 20

WHERE: Across Perth

GET INVOLVED: antipovertyweek.org.au or via social media #standagainstpoverty