People in crisis in Gippsland

THE crisis is deepening for families in Gippsland living in poverty, fuelled by cost of living pressures and the drought, according to Uniting Gippsland.

The organisation has compiled a report on poverty, and says in the 2017-2018 financial year alone, it provided 29,563 days of support to people in crisis in Gippsland.

A total of 455 clients in Sale were supported, with the three main age groups 25 to 29-year-olds (11.2 per cent), 20 to 24-year-olds (11 per cent) and six to nine-year-olds (9.5 per cent).

More than 40 children aged between six and nine needed support from the organisation, and almost 30 per cent of clients (141 people) presenting for help were single parents with children.

More than 90 people (18.6 per cent) were couples with children.

Last month, 75 people said they were homeless or sleeping rough, and 113 people lived in short-term or emergency accommodation because of a lack of other options.

Fifty-five people said they were couch-surfing, 21 were boarding and 81 were living with relatives in a rent-free arrangement.

Unemployment and under-employment appears to be a driver which places people in crisis, with 246 clients saying they were unemployed, and 23 out of 30 who were employed were only working part-time.

“Our very real fear is that many families in Sale and across Gippsland will face a tough Christmas — without food and gifts — and a rough start to 2019,” a Uniting spokesperson said.

Uniting Gippsland fears the number of families in crisis in Gippsland is set to grow amid poor living circumstances and financial pressures as a result of increasing living costs and the effects of drought.

Uniting executive officer Di Fisher said Gippsland’s affordable housing shortages, stagnated wage growth and the high cost of utility bills were pushing more residents in Gippsland towards financial crisis.

“The cost of rent is going up while wages have dropped,” she said.

“A lot of people are telling us they can only find casual or part-time work.

“The knock-on effect is, quite simply, people cannot afford to buy food or cover their normal living expenses, let alone give their children a gift at Christmas.

“It is not just people on welfare that are asking for assistance.

“Under employment, casualisation of the workforce and rising costs of living mean that some people who have jobs still cannot afford to make ends meet.”

Uniting Gippsland says the crisis will escalate during Christmas when more people reach out for support, including families escaping violence, and Ms Fisher is urging Gippslanders to help out with practical support.

Uniting Gippsland is collecting gifts and non-perishable food items to ease pressure on local families struggling in the lead up to Christmas.

All donations received in the local area will be used to directly support Gippsland families experiencing hardship.

Ms Fisher said all donations would be received gratefully, however gifts must be new, and donated unwrapped.

People can drop off items in Sale at 126 Raymond St. This drive forms part of the Uniting Vic.Tas Food for Families campaign.

Uniting Vic.Tas hopes to bring in an unprecedented 70 tonnes, or 20,000 shopping bags, of non-perishable food and household essentials, to help meet a growing demand for support across the community.

The appeal coincides with the UnitingCare Target gift appeal, but all donations — no matter how they are received — will be distributed to local families in the same way.

To register and provide support, visit christmas.unitingvictas.org.