NFPs pile the pressure on government to do more for needy

Posted on 30 Jul 2023

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia

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Not-for-profit organisations are playing a crucial role in highlighting the effect of the cost-of-living crisis on vulnerable Australians, putting pressure on government and regulators to do more to provide financial relief.

From the impact of rising energy prices and housing costs to the ravages of homelessness, advocacy and research carried out by the sector has ensured economic disadvantage has remained at the front and centre of public debate.

This theme was prosecuted by Community Council for Australia CEO, David Crosbie in his latest weekly column in the Community Advocate, where he argued NFPs expertise and impact should be given greater weight in national policy making.

Recent examples of NFPs leading the debate include:

  • The Living Costs Index launched by Anglicare Australia, which showed people on the lowest incomes are falling behind on the cost of living
  • The release by technology-focused NFP Infoxchange of figures that revealed a record number of people have sought help with food, rent and mental health issues via its Ask Izzy online directory
  • The latest Centre for Social Impact Social Progress Index, which showed the provision of social housing for disadvantaged Australians has gone backwards across much of the nation
  • Surveys conducted by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), which highlighted that more than 65 per cent of people on income support are cutting back on heating because of rising energy bills
  • News from the Salvation Army that many of its clients were trying to survive on just $6 a day after paying for essential items and services such as housing, food and utilities.
  • The release of Mission Australia’s A Safe Place to Call Home report which revealed a 26 per cent increase in demand for the organisation’s homelessness services over the past three years.

The hard science behind the sector’s advocacy work has ensured widespread media coverage.

It has also lent weight to NFPs’ calls for action as outlined in Our Community’s federal budget wrap and increased pressure on government and regulators to do more.

Mission Australia used the release of its homelessness impact report to call for greater investment in homelessness prevention and support services, and for investment in one million new social and affordable homes.

“Our frontline staff are seeing an influx of people seeking help from our homelessness services, and they’re telling us the housing situation is the worst they’ve ever seen it,” said Mission Australia CEO Sharon Callister.

“Australia needs to be doing so much more to be on the front foot to prevent and end homelessness in our country instead of band-aid crisis solutions.”

Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers used damning statistics contained in her organisaiton’s Living Costs Index to call for a plan to stop Australia’s lowest paid workers being pushed into poverty.

“Australians doing it tough need real action and real leadership. That means making the minimum wage a living wage, limiting unfair rent increases, and investing in housing for people in need.”

“Australians doing it tough need real action and real leadership."
Mission Australia CEO Sharon Callister

ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie, meanwhile, called on the federal government to do more to address soaring energy costs.

The issue was highlighted by figures released by the Australian Energy Regulator which showed the number of residential customers participating in hardship programs soared 19 per cent to 89,201 in the first three months of this year compared to the previous quarter.

Ms Goldie urged Canberra to take several steps, from increasing the powers of the ACCC to tackle inflated market pricing to providing $2,000 relief payments to Australians struggling with unmanageable energy debt.

“The government should step into lower retail profits and also directly assist customers in hardship before their debt spirals out of control and becomes more unmanageable,” she said.

Financial Counselling Australia CEO Fiona Guthrie said the recent flurry of interest rate increases and the increased focus on cost-of-living pressures had undoubtedly shone a light on the importance of the work of financial counsellors.

“Financial counselling, particularly the work of the National Debt Helpline, already enjoyed a healthy public profile, but the events of the past year have arguably boosted that even further, with an unprecedented number of media mentions,” Ms Guthrie said.

“While it’s been gratifying to see how many more people are reaching out for help, with calls to the National Debt Helpline alone up by 30 per cent in 2023, it’s also stretched the resources of many counselling agencies.

“Many are reporting high demand and growing waitlists for people to see a counsellor.”

More information

Not-for-profits hail federal budget as a good first step

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