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Anti-Poverty Week: Immediate action needed to address entrenched poverty

Published: 16 October 2016

The current levels of welfare payments are creating entrenched poverty and no longer fulfilling their main function of providing for a minimum acceptable standard of living, the AASW National President, Professor Karen Healy Healy AM, said today, on the eve of Anti-Poverty Week.

“Anti-Poverty Week is an opportunity to strengthen our understanding of the causes and consequences of poverty in Australia, including identifying what more needs to be done,” said Professor Healy.

“Along with every other major social welfare group, the AASW has continually called for a significant increase to welfare payments and allowances so they are well above the poverty line. This is the most important and immediate action the government can take to address poverty in Australia.”

Social workers witness the detrimental and long term impacts of current welfare policies, which stigmatise those not in the workforce when they are also contending with significant life issues that impact their health and wellbeing.

As the Business Council of Australia pointed out, the rates of allowances have now fallen so low that they have actually become a barrier to employment. The AASW’s own research into student poverty has shown a similar effect, with data on the low rates of allowances interfering with students' ability to engage properly with their studies.

“This is causing real distress and interfering with some students' abilities to break out of the cycle of disadvantage by furthering their education and completing, in this instance, a professional degree.” Professor Healy said. “This is a fundamentally a human rights issue and we need to ensure that every Australian is supported and given every opportunity to meet their full potential.”

The AASW represents 10,000 professional social workers who are committed to working with communities and individuals to promote wellbeing, human rights and social justice.

Professor Karen Healy AM was this year named a Member of the Order of Australia for her significant service to community welfare in the field of social work, particularly child protection, and to higher education and research. The AASW's National President since 2011, she is the Professor of Social Work at the University of Queensland where she is also the Deputy Head of the School of Social Work and Discipline Leader for Social Work, School of Nursing and Midwifery.

To arrange an interview with Professor Karen Healy AM, please contact Emma Pegrum, Media and Marketing Manager on 02 6199 5011 or 0408 200 191

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers