Poverty and Social Exclusion

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					Poverty and Social Exclusion
Poverty is one of the most pervasive causes of social disadvantage. Poverty precludes people
from having an acceptable standing of living, and denies them access to essential goods and
activities. An estimated 413, 000 people or 10.6% of Queenslanders are living below the
poverty line.1 For a single adult, this means living on less than $281 per week. Both poverty
and the cost of living are on the rise. Since June 2005 the average price of food has risen by
15%, rents have risen by over 17% and household energy bills have risen by 17%.2 Poverty
affects some population groups and locations more than others: the elderly, people in receipt of
social security payments, single parents and renters. Some groups, such as people from Non
English Speaking Backgrounds, are more likely than others to experience persistent or ongoing
poverty.3

A related problem is social exclusion, where people are not able to participate in social and
community activities and lack access to key services and economic resources. This can be
because of poverty, but language and cultural barriers, locational disadvantage or discrimination
because of a disability can also play a part. Social exclusion is often the outcome of people or
communities suffering from a range of problems such as unemployment, low incomes, poor
housing, crime, poor health, disability and family breakdown.4 In combination, these problems
can result in cycles of disadvantage, spanning generations and geographical regions. Social
exclusion affects both the quality of life of individuals and the equity and cohesion of society as
a whole.

…no social phenomenon is as comprehensive in its assault on human rights as
poverty. Poverty erodes or nullifies economic and social rights such as the right to
health, adequate housing, food and safe water, and the right to education.
(Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights)


Recognising Progress
QCOSS welcomes the establishment of a Social Inclusion Board within the Office of the Prime
Minister by the Federal Government. QCOSS also acknowledges recent progress by the State
Government particularly
• The announcement of a new plan “Tomorrow’s Queensland” (Q2) with long term targets
   around the economy, environment and lifestyle, education and skills, and health and
   community.5
• The establishment of a $70 million incentives pool to fund innovative projects focusing on
   early intervention and prevention approaches.
• An emphasis on helping Queenslanders under financial pressure in last year’s budget –
   particularly rebate schemes for pensioners for Gas and electricity.
• The commencement of a place based social inclusion pilot program in the Logan/Beenleigh
   area.


Key Issues
While these initiatives are welcomed, addressing the complexity of social exclusion requires a
targeted, coordinated and assertive approach by government. It cannot be solved by public
services working in silos. Social inclusion approaches which have shown success are
characterized by the setting of clear, long term priorities and targets which are centrally driven,
a focus on strengthening and working with the community sector, service system reform and
greater coordination and integration of government services.
                                                                              QCOSS’S POLICY POSITION – DECEMBER 2008

The Queensland Government is lagging behind other states such as Victoria and South
Australia in adopting a social inclusion agenda and yet there has never been a better time for
action given the federal government has identified social inclusion as a high priority. There is
clear potential for Queensland Government to:
• establish clear social inclusion priorities across human service agencies with specific areas
    of focus, established targets, and systems for measuring effectiveness. These would go
    beyond the targets established in Q2.
• create a new system to break down the agency silos which is more effective than the current
    CEOs Committees.
• develop integrated social planning systems (central and regional) to drive resource
    allocation.
• recognise the role of the community sector (not just government systems) in tackling social
    exclusion and devolve more service delivery to community sector.


QCOSS Recommendations
1. Establish a centrally lead Social Inclusion Unit in the Department of the Premier and
   Cabinet. The unit should develop coordinated research and evaluation capacity; establish
   indicators, measure progress, and continually improve practice based on evidence and with
   the support of community reference groups. The unit would also be responsible for
   developing a system of regional and central planning which includes collaboration between
   government and the community sector.

2. Develop a Social Inclusion Plan for the State and identify clear targets and strategies to
   support implementation and to monitor the outcomes of this plan. Require commitments
   from relevant Government Departments to adopt common targets and develop collaborative
   practices to achieve these. Critical areas of investment must be aligned with the priorities of
   the national Social Inclusion Board and COAG.

3. Ensure early intervention approaches are central. The cost of crisis responses to social
   dysfunction caused by poverty and exclusion is growing out of control. Whether it is paying
   for our rapidly expanding police force, courts system and prison system, doubling and
   tripling the investment in child protection or dealing with riots in marginalized communities,
   the cost is unsustainable.

4. Critical program elements that go beyond the existing Q2 must include:
   • provision of integrated family support services for those most at risk including home
       visiting, parenting support and outreach,
   • closing the gap in outcomes for Indigenous Queenslanders
   • a sustaining tenancies approach to reduce homelessness
   • accessibility planning to ensure that transport services link disadvantaged people to the
       services they need including health care, jobs, food shops and education.

5. Ensure additional government investment is accompanied by service system reform in
   community sector services and inclusion of this sector in the planning and design of
   interventions.

6. Boost funding for emergency relief, financial counselling programs and enhanced
   community development capacity through community and neighbourhood programs.

1
  Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS). 2007. Australian Fair: Update on those missing out.
2
  Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS). 2007. Submission to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and
Indigenous Affairs Pension Review. September 2008.
3
  Household Income Labour Data
4
  UK Social Inclusion Unit. 1997.
5
  Tomorrow’s Queensland


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