ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Media release: Cost of living worsens fourth year in a row for low income Canberrans

7 May 2018

New research released today shows that the rising cost of living continues to hit Canberra’s low income households hardest as incomes fail to keep up with the increasing cost of essential goods and services. The research includes updated estimates of poverty in the ACT, reporting an estimated overall poverty rate of 9.2% (34,543 people), while the estimated child poverty rate is significantly higher at 12.7% (8,897 children).

The latest ACTCOSS ACT Cost of Living Report which looks at changes in the CPI and Selected Living Cost Indexes over the past year shows that utilities prices rose the most and well above the national rate. Gas prices rose by an unprecedented 18% in just one quarter. The prices of other essential goods and services in Canberra – including housing, health, education and transport – also rose above the national rate.

ACTCOSS Director, Ms Susan Helyar said, “Drawing on ABS data, our analysis shows that cost of living pressures have continued to worsen for around 35,000 people in Canberra who are living below the poverty line, including almost 9,000 children. This is the fourth consecutive year we’ve found that low income households’ cost of living is growing at a faster rate than higher-income households as the costs of essential goods and services continue to rise in the ACT.

“Many Canberra families are in a position of having to decide between eating or turning on the heating, while over a third of low income rental households in the ACT experience rental stress. With the release of Anglicare’s 2018 Rental Affordability Snapshot just last week we saw that, yet again, there are no affordable and appropriate private rental properties for people on Newstart or Youth Allowance, or for a lone parent living on the minimum wage in the ACT.

“It is a shock to see how far income support payments such as Newstart and Youth Allowance have fallen behind the cost of living, with essential goods and services becoming less and less affordable for income support recipients. Newstart has not increased in real terms in 24 years and now more than half of the people on Newstart live below the poverty line.”

Ms Helyar said, “For a sole parent with two children who is living on Newstart the weekly cost of living rose by $13.40 over the past year, while their payments only rose by $5.45. ACTCOSS is calling on the Australian Government to raise the rate of Newstart, Youth Allowance and other benefit payments by $75 a week from January 2019, and to index them to wage and price movements. We encourage all Canberrans to get behind ACOSS’ national Raise the Rate campaign.

“ACTCOSS is calling on the ACT Government to take action to address cost of living pressures for Canberrans living on low incomes and below the poverty line, so that they can afford the basics required for health and wellbeing. As the 2018-19 ACT Budget approaches, ACTCOSS has outlined a range of investment and policy priorities to address cost of living pressures for low income households in Canberra. At the centre of this is the need to address housing affordability.”

ACTCOSS has also today released the ACTCOSS Factsheet: Poverty and inequality in the ACT to complement the release of the 2018 ACT Cost of Living Report. This factsheet provides a quick reference for key data on poverty and inequality in the ACT.

ACTCOSS' ACT Budget Priorities 2018-19 is available here:

Find out more about the Raise the Rate campaign:

For more information or comment please contact
Susan Helyar, Director, on 0448 791 987 or 02 6202 7200.

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