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Who pays for poverty?

by PeakCare Qld on 16th October 2014

Home -> Articles -> 2014 -> October -> Who pays for poverty?

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Anti-Poverty Week 2014 is here with the news that 2.5 million Australians are now living below the poverty line. An Australian Council of Social Service report says a quarter of a million more Australians have fallen into poverty over the past two years.

This increases the national poverty rate to an alarming 13.9 per cent. In Queensland the rate is 14.8 per cent with only Tasmania, at 15 per cent, exceeding this rate.

These figures can only be described as disturbing. They demand that questions are asked about the price being paid for this worsening rate of poverty and who is paying this price.

The ACOSS report highlights that the situation is worse for our nation’s children. We now have 17.7 per cent of children living in poverty. This compares with 13.9 per cent of the general population.

Children who are the least able to influence the factors that have led to their poverty, or to escape its clutches, are also the group most likely to suffer its debilitating consequences.

It cannot be said that poverty is the sole cause of child abuse or neglect. There are many extraordinary parents who, despite experiencing profound financial hardship, love and raise their children with exemplary care.

Nor does having a wealthy family guarantee a child their freedom from abuse or neglect. Nevertheless, while poverty alone may not cause child abuse or neglect, the overwhelmingly strong correlation between poverty and child maltreatment cannot be denied or ignored.

It stands to reason that families who are struggling to afford adequate housing, food and the most basic necessities of life will often be the ones seen as teetering on the edge of neglecting their children.

Raising and caring for children safely and well can, at times, be challenging and emotionally exhausting for all parents. Add to this the stress of living in poverty with no escape or end in sight. Also consider the despair this causes and the risks of parents detaching from their children. They may lose patience and lash out in emotionally and physically abusive ways.

There are few, if any, who do not see the sense in prevention being better than cure. The elimination of poverty may not eliminate all incidents of child abuse. However, we can be confident that it would prevent many children from being harmed or neglected.

The figures that appear in the ACOSS report must be taken as a challenge by federal, state and territory governments to better plan, manage and coordinate policies and strategies to stop the increasing number of children and families falling into poverty.

Surely children being harmed or neglected must be seen as too high a price to pay when we know what can be done to help prevent it.

Lindsay Wegener

Executive Director

PeakCare Qld