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Published: 15 October 2020

The Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) is marking Anti-Poverty Week (11 -17 October) and World Homeless Day with calls to all levels of government to take action to assure that every Australian is given the basic human right to affordable, safe and secure housing, and income support to maintain a baseline standard of living.

AASW National President, Christine Craik, said Anti-Poverty Week and World Homeless Day provide an opportunity for the whole community to strengthen and deepen our understanding of the causes and consequences of poverty and homelessness.

“Rising rates of poverty and homelessness are fundamentally about a lack of access to basic human needs and a genuine national emergency that must be addressed as a matter of urgency. The Australian Government needs to address poverty and homelessness in Australia and must significantly increase income support payments. Poverty is a real cause of devastation in our community and an issue of government's own making.”

“There is an opportunity here for all levels of government to rebuild the economy by putting funding into projects that support the growth of social housing and provide economic certainty for everyone who is living in financial insecurity. The Federal Budget was lacking in this regard and we are disappointed that the Government did not listen to the advice of experts in this area.”

“COVID-19 has had an immense impact on the financial stability of many Australians, and more are at risk of homelessness than ever, particularly when the Jobseeker supplement ends in December this year. The current housing situation is having a greater impact on marginalised groups such as women and children, those affected by family violence, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, people with disability, and people living with mental illness.”

Ms Craik said during the pandemic, governments have housed many people who were homeless as part of a public health response. This has shown we can end homelessness and can support some of the most marginalised people in our society when there is political will to do so.

“This initiative needs to be permanent, not just during a pandemic, instead the Federal Government has cut homelessness funding by $41 million in the recent Budget. Social workers know that providing opportunities for early intervention, housing first, and continuing with support until housing is stabilised is a proven way to prevent and eradicate homelessness.”

“For anyone, becoming homeless can feel like a personal failure and many of our cultural myths and negative stereotypes around homelessness and poverty feed into this. You can tell a lot about the health of a community by the way it treats its most vulnerable citizens,” Ms Craik said.

To interview Christine Craik, please contact Noel McMahon on 0413 532 954.

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers