Catholic social services and welfare agencies are working harder than ever to meet rising inequality as a new report shows a dramatic rise in poverty across Sydney’s west and southwest.
New research from the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, based on the latest census data, showed that an extra 100,000 people are living below the poverty line since 2016 with older people making up half that number.
In Horsley Park the rate of older people who became poor in the last few years more than doubled, with a 220 per cent reported increase. Lurnea-Cartwright saw a 131 per cent increase and Liverpool a 106 per cent increase.
The report commissioned by the NSW Council of Social Services said that one million people live in poverty across the state.
Alastair McGibbon, chief executive offer of CatholicCare Sydney, confirmed that it is experiencing “substantial increases” for its family support services with direct requests for food and help with other living essentials such as petrol and electricity.
“However, the problems go much deeper whereby being unable to make ends meet is driving increased family relationship stresses,” he said.
“We have experienced a major uptick in our family counselling and mediation services, which has separated families being forced to continue to live together given the shortage of suitable affordable accommodation.”
The preliminary findings also reveal that 15 per cent of all children in the state live in poverty, the highest rate out of all age groups.
Again, some of the highest rates of children in poverty are in western Sydney, with 41 per cent in south Granville and 38 per cent in Auburn.
CatholicCare supports more than 48,000 families each year and Mr McGibbon said the increase in older people living in poverty is particularly alarming.
“We are working hard in areas in western and southwest Sydney to provide support, companionship, and assistance navigating aged care,” he said.
He said at the other end of life, the agency’s HOPE program provides essential services and wrap around support for young, at-risk families and babies in the first five years.
Paul Burton, NSW state president of the St Vincent de Paul Society, said its members are seeing rising numbers of people in crisis every day.
“Around a quarter of the people we’ve assisted this year have sought help for the first time, including a growing rate of families and people working full-time, because there is simply not enough money to make ends meet,” he said.
Chief executive officer of NCOSS CEO Joanna Quilty said the report also highlighted increasing inequality across Sydney, as poverty rates in suburbs like Woollahra, Bondi Beach and Clovelly have reduced.
“We have known for many years that people in western Sydney are doing it tough, but this data shines a light on just how tough, and the fact it’s getting worse,” Ms Quilty said.
“The so-called ‘latte line’ is becoming an impenetrable wall between those sitting pretty and those whose day-to-day lives are a constant struggle.”