ACOSS Urges PM To Act On Poverty

12/10/2015 12:36 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST
JEWEL SAMAD via Getty Images
Ausralia, Sydney, homeless man sleeping on a bench, passer-by

Australia's peak welfare body is calling for urgent federal government action to help lift more than 2.5 million Aussies out of poverty.

As anti-poverty week kicks off across the country, the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) said more needed to be done to tackle the issue, especially given rising inequality between the richest and poorest Australians.

"It’s clear that not all members of our community have benefited fairly from Australia's growing prosperity," ACOSS said on Monday.

"Many have missed out on their share: women and children, sole parents, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, those from families born overseas, older people, people with disabilities, and the lowest paid workers.

"We urge Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his new Cabinet to work together with state and territory governments and the community ... for a renewed national policy focus on this important issue."

ACOSS said a national plan to combat poverty needed a clear target, including a $50 per week boost to unemployment benefits, an increase to sole parent family payments, and a lift to rent assistance.

Another key, ACOSS said, was a joint government strategy to increase the "supply of affordable housing in local communities".

"The plan should elevate the 2.5 million people already living below the poverty line by ensuring they benefit from future growth."

Meanwhile, the Salvation Army said a priority for anti-poverty week should be a crackdown on predatory lending to vulnerable people.

Salvation Army Moneycare head, Tony Devlin, urged monthly repayment fees of payday loans to be capped at a lower rate, saying current laws did not give consumers enough protection.

“The effective interest rates on pay day loans are excessive and are a huge financial obligation for lower income people,” Mr Devlin said.

“The current law caps the amount of repayment for consumers that receive 50 percent of their income from Centrelink at 20 percent of their gross income. A 20 percent repayment cap for a small loan is very unrealistic.

“People who use these loans are usually in a desperate time in their lives and need greater protection from this predatory lending."

Mr Devlin recommend that the 20 percent cap be replaced with a 5 percent one "to provide better protection for vulnerable consumers".

Anti-poverty week runs from October 11 - 17.

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