Salvos see poor struggle

Salvation Army officer Karen Walker with Salvos employee Bryce Roberts at the Wollongong community welfare centre store. A survey of Salvos clients shows many are struggling. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

Salvation Army officer Karen Walker with Salvos employee Bryce Roberts at the Wollongong community welfare centre store. A survey of Salvos clients shows many are struggling. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

ONE in four people who use Salvation Army services can't afford a substantial meal at least once a day.

This is one of the shocking findings from the Salvation Army's annual Economic and Social Impact Survey of 2485 of its clients nationwide. The charity fears the federal budget cuts will only push more people into poverty.

Of those surveyed, 29 per cent said they did not have a secure or decent home and 14 per cent were homeless or lived in unstable accommodation. The survey also showed that 24 per cent could not afford medical treatment when needed, 34 per cent were unable to buy prescriptions, 28 per cent lived without heating in at least one room in the house in winter and 91 per cent had limited or no savings for emergencies.

Salvos Illawarra regional public relations and appeals co-ordinator Karen Walker said the survey results reflected what was happening in the Illawarra.

Ms Walker said people were struggling to find rental accommodation in the Illawarra, because of rising prices and competition.

"The major increase in clients we've seen so far this year is people coming to us for rent assistance and also removalist fees," Ms Walker said.

"People are having to move properties and go into cheaper accommodation.

"Obviously these [budget] changes haven't occurred so far."

Ms Walker said the government needed to offer more affordable housing, because this problem was taking up a lot of the Salvos' community welfare budget.

"People are going without prescriptions and visiting the doctor because they're putting their money towards their rent. They can't afford these extra things."

Clients were seeking help with medical bills and Ms Walker said this would only get worse with budget measures such as the $7 Medicare GP fee, rising fuel costs and cuts to Centrelink payments.

"People are asking for food parcels and vouchers so they can just get through pay to pay or Centrelink payment to Centrelink payment."

The Salvos run community welfare centres in Wollongong and Warilla, which help an average of 56 people a month with food, clothing, household items and bills.

Ms Walker said the Salvos would lobby the federal government and share its survey.

Its Red Shield Appeal has a nationwide fund-raising target of $80 million. Call the Red Shield Appeal on 13 72 58 or go to salvos.org.au.

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