Cost of living hits Canberrans hard, report finds

DESPITE the ACT having the highest average weekly earnings in Australia, around one in 10 Canberrans are living in poverty, according to new data from the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS).

ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell. Photo: Holly Treadaway.

The report, “How JobSeeker and other income support payments are falling behind the cost of living”, surveyed 449 people living on JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and Parenting Payment between July and August 2022 and found the surging cost of living is having a “devastating” impact for people on income support.

“We see that the cost of living crisis combined with pressures of rising inflation means many Canberra households cannot afford the fundamentals of a healthy life such as housing, food, transport, health services, and energy,” said ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) CEO Dr Emma Campbell.

“We hear stories of parents going without [food] so that they can feed their children or older people going without medical care so that they can keep their house warm.

“The JobSeeker Payment is just $48 a day and Youth Allowance is just $38 a day. To put these rates of payment in perspective, it costs approximately $80 to fill a small car with unleaded fuel. Median rents for a unit are around $460 per week, or $65 a day.”

The report found 62 per cent of people had difficulty getting medication or medical care due to the increased cost of living and 70 per cent of people who regularly use a car had difficulty travelling to work, medical appointments, or other commitments as a result of increased fuel costs.

It comes just days before the government’s fuel excise cut ends on Thursday (September 29).

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“This report by ACOSS shows that this is an urgent issue. Such significant increases in the cost of essential goods and services hits low-income households hardest,” said Campbell.

“We need commitments and cooperation from all levels of government to an economic and community recovery for all. One that is built upon a vision of a fairer and resilient community.”

ACTCOSS shared similar sobering findings for ACT residents in its 2022 Cost of Living Report earlier this year.

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Ian Meikle, editor