Disability and Poverty

Kevin is a bright, amiable man in his mid-40’s, who loves nature, especially the bush, and barracking for the Bulldogs. Kevin is also stuck in a perpetual cycle of poverty, and will be for the rest of his life.

Many Australians with disability live close to, or below the poverty line, according to the Productivity Commission’s 2013 ‘Deep and Persistent Disadvantage in Australia’ report. The reality of living close to the poverty line is not just a story of a shortage of money, it is one of lack of opportunity, of being deprived of basics that we all consider necessary for life and of social exclusion.

The members of our communities that are most likely to experience the deep and persistent disadvantage that comes from a life lived close to the poverty line include lone parents, Indigenous Australians, people with a long term health condition, people with a low educational attainment, and like Kevin, people with a disability.

Kevin has been living with a physical disability for most of his adult life, and he knows only too well the realities of a hand-to-mouth existence.

In Australia, the statistics are sobering: 42% of households receiving a Disability Support Pension and 45% of people with a disability, live close to, or below the poverty line.

Kevin lives in a Supported Residential Service with 30 other people, and has a shared room. Kevin automatically has 85% of his disability support pension directed to his accommodation, which leaves him with $60 a week to spend on phone calls, medication, clothing, entertainment, and savings.

In a conversation about disability and poverty, what Kevin and many thousands of Australians like him experience, is a stark illustration of disadvantage.

With the majority of his pension going to an accommodation model that only provides the bare minimum of care and living standards, and leaving him with a small amount to spend and no opportunity to save, it is no surprise that there is a perpetual cycle of poverty.

To read the Deep and Persistent Disadvantage Report, visit  www .pc.gov.au/research/supporting/deep-persistent-disadvantage

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