Radical policy changes needed to break the cycle of entrenched poverty

A new study has revealed that despite decades of economic growth, nearly one-and-a-half million Australians are living in poverty with “little to no hope” of escaping it. According to the study, carried out by the Committee for Economic Development Australia (CEDA), a “radical policy shake up” is needed if that is to change. The study also found that there are certain groups of people who are more susceptible to the poverty cycle. They are:

  • Older people
  • People with lower levels of education
  • Households with no one who is employed
  • People who live in certain geographic areas
  • Indigenous Australians
  • People with chronic health problems

A major contributor to this problem has been that of successive governments creating short term or ‘quick fix’ policies. The report highlights how governments have created policies aimed at getting people back into the work force which is a fine objective, but have failed to understand that that some people need specific help to prepare for and engage with the employment. Whilst there are policies in place to address disadvantage, the report found that they tend not to focus on the deeper problems of long term, chronic and intergenerational disadvantage. As CEDA rightly states, “it is difficult to get or hold a job if you do not have anywhere to sleep or have an ongoing health issue.”

So what can the government do to remedy the problem of entrenched poverty? The report focuses on three key areas – mental illness, Indigenous disadvantage and education gaps. From that point the key recommendations include:

  • Improving community based care for people with mental illness
  • Creating policies that can be customised in collaboration with Indigenous communities
  • Ensuring that policies targeted at Indigenous Australians allow for independence and autonomy
  • Address the intergenerational nature of educational disadvantage by targeting parents and children
  • Recognising and targeting people who have experienced entrenched disadvantage are likely to need help establishing a stable domestic environment before they can transition to work
  • Developing long term policies for high risk people with a focus on early intervention
  • Subjecting all programs and policies to transparent evaluation that includes follow-up evaluation to ensure they are working

Poverty is the common denominator in homelessness. CHP hopes that the Federal Government will take heed of the report’s recommendations and start developing policies that address entrenched disadvantage that still exists in our society.