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Financial Hardship and Emergency Relief in Victoria

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The existence and provision of emergency relief remains one of the more contentious aspects of poverty relief in Australia. This is largely due to a fundamental difference of opinion within government and the welfare sector about how to best tackle the financial hardship being experienced by people in need. Some contend that emergency relief should be expanded and better funded by the Commonwealth, whereas others believe it should be discontinued altogether and replaced by more generous social welfare payments. This debate continues unresolved for a number of reasons, including a lack of reliable and comprehensive data on who uses emergency relief in Australia and why. This paper reports on a State-wide investigation undertaken of emergency relief use in Victoria between 2007 and 2008. It has found that existing social welfare recipients—especially those on the disability support pension, parenting payment, and Newstart allowance—are the main users of emergency relief, who are living in households headed by a single adult, and forced to rent housing in the private sector. A disaggregation of the findings over both time and spatial regions of Victoria suggests that the level of need is not uniform. Several recommendations are offered to address the financial hardship that some people living in differing parts of Victoria face on an ongoing basis.
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Keywords: Emergency Relief; Financial Hardship; Social Welfare Payments; Victoria

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Global Studies,Social Science and Planning, RMIT University, Melbourne, 2: Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Melbourne, 3: Social Policy Unit,Good Shepherd Youth and Family Service, Melbourne,

Publication date: March 1, 2012

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