Releasing its ‘SA Election Position Statement’ last month, the St Vincent de Paul Society (SA) said the issue of food insecurity – where people get insufficient food for their household needs – had grown considerably over the past 12 months.
“Food security improved during 2020 with the doubling of the JobSeeker allowance, but since March 2021 we have seen food insecurity increase significantly,” said State president Brad Hocking.
On the Lefevre Peninsula there was a 50 per cent increase in assistance required. In 2020 Vinnies supported 1211 adults and 624 children, which increased to 1699 adults and 1095 children last year. At Dernancourt, Vinnies supported 1446 individuals in 2020, rising to 2287 in 2021.
“Regionally, Mount Gambier recorded 406 visits in 2021 compared to 322 in 2020. The Riverland, Yorke Peninsula and Eyre Peninsula also saw increased demand,” Mr Hocking said.
Providing a personal face to more than one in three food insecure Australians, Vinnies shared the story of Helen, who lost her job and income when COVID-19 struck.
‘She had already been struggling to make ends meet and the sudden change in her circumstances pushed her quickly to the edge and she was forced to choose between paying bills and buying food. Before Helen contacted Vinnies for help she was skipping meals so that her teenage daughters could eat.
“I never thought I would be in this position – I have always worked hard, and even though life on a single income with children is no picnic, I’ve always been able to provide,” Helen said. “But being a single mum on a limited income means I had few savings and what little I did have in the bank was quickly gone when I lost my job and wasn’t eligible for JobKeeper.”
Mr Hocking said food insecurity was one of the many social justice issues facing vulnerable South Australians that needed to be addressed by political parties.
“The 2022 State election is important for all South Australians,” he said.
“It provides an opportunity for a new focus, new programs, and new funding, regardless of which political party is successful.
“St Vincent de Paul Society SA cares about this opportunity as it creates a platform to advocate for better outcomes for our community. These outcomes will ultimately further the dignity of the human person.”
Other areas of concern raised in the statement include:
Housing insecurity –Vinnies has called for better access to affordable housing options for people on low incomes and those experiencing homelessness.
‘The current low-cost housing crisis in SA is forcing people to wait years for secure accommodation. Significant government investment is needed in social housing, coupled with better programs to support vulnerable people to navigate their way to better housing outcomes.’
Education for children and young people – The Catholic charity says there is a need to create equal opportunities for children and young people across SA so they can fully participate in their education.
‘There are too many barriers currently preventing participation in education such as daily food, quality clothing including school uniforms, and reliable access to technology.’
Support to asylum seekers – Political parties must address ways to improve access to SA government services for asylum seekers, Vinnies says.
‘These people currently rely on charities for their survival, including the provision of food, clothing, bill assistance, accommodation, education and more. Develop and implement special access policies and arrangements for asylum seekers to State government services including, but not limited to: public hospitals, community health services, child care rebates, ambulance services, dental services, immunisation services, concessions and aged care and disability services. Fully subsidise vocational TAFE courses for asylum seekers in the community to improve access to employment.’
Concessions equity – Vinnies is seeking a review of the concessions available to South Australians and increasing support (including ambulance cover) to individuals and families on low income.
‘The current concession system is complex to understand and does not favour the most vulnerable in our community. In the Adelaide metropolitan area, our volunteer-based network responds to 400 calls weekly from the community for material assistance such as food, clothing and payment of utilities, totalling over $4.5 million annually. While Age Pension holders are eligible for all SA concessions there are significant gaps for other welfare recipients, the most glaring anomaly being ambulance cover.’
To read the Vinnies election Position Statement visit www.vinnies.org.au/page/Publications/SA
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