ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Media release: Persistent and widening gap between income and cost of living for people on low income in ACT

5 June 2017

Cost of living research commissioned by the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) over the past three years has revealed a persistent and widening gap between income and living costs for individuals and households living on low incomes in the ACT.

ACTCOSS Director, Susan Helyar said, ‘The people in Canberra who do not have steady, secure work or income include younger people, older workers, people living with disabilities, people with less education qualifications, people moving back into work from caring roles, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

‘For three consecutive years ACTCOSS analysis has shown that the cost of living in the ACT has increased disproportionately for those households that can least afford it, particularly those receiving a government transfer payment such as Newstart or Youth Allowance, as well as the Age and Disability Support Pensions. Some working age payment rates continue to fall well below the 50 percent poverty line and payment increases have fallen behind increases in recipient’s living costs over the past year.

‘It is critical that the Commonwealth Parliament addresses the significant and longstanding gap between base payments and the increased cost of living.

‘Drawing on ABS data, our analysis shows the general cost of living in the ACT increased above the national rate last year while the living costs for low income households rose at an even higher level again. Those households already struggling to make ends meet in terms of essential costs such as housing, health, energy and telecommunications, have a heightened risk of experiencing financial and housing stress. They also miss out on the opportunities and pleasures people in Canberra with disposable incomes and financial security take for granted.

‘We are keen to see action by the ACT Government in the 2017-18 ACT Budget on our recommendations for improving the concessions scheme offered by the ACT Government, including concessions for licences and registration for low income households, expanded access according to need, not age or source of income and better promotion of eligibility.

‘It is critical that the ACT Government takes what action it can to ensure that Canberra is a liveable place for all,’ Ms Helyar said. ‘In our analysis of this year’s ACT Budget, ACTCOSS will be looking closely to see what, if any, measures have been put in place to hold back growth of inequality, improve standards of living, reduce costs of living, increase supply of vital community services and improve amenity for people living on low incomes in the ACT.’

Read the full report here.

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