2.2 million Aussies living in poverty

Tuesday, 29 March 2011 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

More Australians are struggling to make ends meet, a survey by the Australian Council of Social Services says.

Australia fared better than other nations during the financial crisis but new data suggests more families are struggling to make ends meet.

The latest snapshot of the social sector shows the number of Australians being turned away from emergency relief, disability, homeless and youth welfare services is on the rise.

More than half the 745 charities and services surveyed for the snapshot say they can't cope with the load.

Demand for emergency relief, including food, finance and shelter, almost doubled in 2009-10 from the previous financial year, with services turning away an average of 100 people.

Disability, homeless service and youth groups turned away an extra 20 to 40 per cent of would-be eligible recipients, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) survey shows.

While the survey findings are preliminary, ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie says it paints a clear picture of concern.

"We are seeing enormous strain on community welfare groups who are struggling to meet the growing demand, made worse by the recent flood disasters," she said in a statement.

"It's a worrying picture, challenging our notion of a fair and egalitarian society."

The number of Australians living in poverty, estimated at 2.2 million, will continue to creep up as families buckle under cost of living pressures, Dr Goldie says.

"The cost of essential items and services like food, rent, energy, health, education, clothing and transport costs continue to go up."

Dr Goldie acknowledged some federal measures following the financial crisis, such as lump-sum payments to families, pensioners and carers and increased pensions, had helped.

But she said the most vulnerable people, including the unemployed, continued to miss out.

The council would use its national conference in Melbourne this week to nut out a policy approach to "reverse the current trend of growing inequality" threatening Australia. (AAP)