Australian welfare recipients struggle as inflation surges

SYDNEY, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) — Inflation in Australia is pushing the nation’s welfare recipients ever deeper into poverty, according to a report released on Monday.

The report from the Sydney-based welfare advocacy group Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) found that 96 percent of the 449 people surveyed had suffered physical and mental health hardships due to the surging costs of living.

Among other key findings were that 62 percent of those on welfare had been forced to regularly skip meals or avoid seeking medical treatment, while 71 percent had cut back on eating meat, fruit, and vegetables.

“No one should have to choose between food and medicine, but these are exactly the choices being forced on people in Australia, one of the world’s wealthiest nations,” said ACOSS chief executive Edwina MacDonald.

Their plight is being exacerbated by Australia’s latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) rate, which had soared to 6.1 percent during the past 12 months to the end of June, the highest figure since 1990.

“People on low, fixed incomes were already struggling with covering basic costs before the cost of living skyrocketed,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald said the “existing income support system was woefully inadequate” with many people only receiving payments from 38 to 48 Australian dollars (about 24.80 to 31.30 US dollars) a day.

To put those figures in perspective, median rents for a unit are around 65 Australian dollars (about 42.40 US dollars) a day, while fueling a car costs about 80 Australian dollars (about 52.20 US dollars), the report said.

MacDonald said with the federal budget due to be delivered in October, it was time for the government to lift support payments to at least 73 Australian dollars a day (about 47.60 US dollars).

ACOSS is also urging for an array of other welfare supplements to ensure disadvantaged people, such as single parents or those with disabilities or illnesses, can better cope with the rising CPI figures.

“The measures we propose are proportionate to the challenge,” MacDonald said.

“It is simply unfathomable to inflict more stress on people who are already struggling to cover basic costs.”

ACOSS will present the report before the federal parliament in Canberra on Tuesday.

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