COMMENT: Cost of living stress survey a ‘wake-up call’

A new survey shows one in four people in NSW go without household essentials and can’t pay bills because their cost of living has become too expensive.

The survey of 1000 people across Australia by not-for-profit Good Shepherd Microfinance shows 22 per cent of respondents in NSW couldn’t pay for medical treatment they needed, 17 per cent went without food and 19 per cent couldn’t afford home appliances in the past year.

Good Shepherd Microfinance CEO Adam Mooney

Good Shepherd Microfinance CEO Adam Mooney

Good Shepherd Microfinance CEO Adam Mooney said the survey demonstrated the urgent need to increase Newstart so that more people could meet the costs of basic living expenses like car repairs, paying for utilities or having a pet.

Mr Mooney said Newstart hasn’t kept up with the cost of living, which means families and individuals are struggling with the basics.

“But this survey also shows that even people earning an income are doing it tough and, unfortunately, more are turning to expensive fast cash or payday loans just to cover the essentials of living.”

The survey revealed the costs people in NSW most struggled to afford were power bills (31%), repairing or registering their car (23%), replacing appliances (7%), medical bills (7%), food (6%), phone bills (3%) and water bills (2%).

Mr Mooney said the respondents also raised the cost of fuel, rates, credit cards, rent and health insurance.

Asked when they would most likely be in a better financial position, a quarter needed to pay off debt, 12 per cent said they needed a job, 10 per cent wanted more hours at work, and 10 per cent said when they no longer supported children.

However, 12 per cent could not see a time when things would get better.

Mr Mooney said the survey’s results and comments “are a wake-up call”.

An article this week about the rise in South East Regional Hospital emergency department admissions by people without “emergency” symptoms sparked plenty of discussion about the cost of accessing medical treatment in the Bega Valley.

High costs of accessing GPs without bulk-billing, lengthy wait lists and unavailability out of business hours were all stated as reasons people consider seeking assistance at the hospital’s emergency ward, for free.

While an increase to Newstart would help, it’s not just those on welfare who are struggling with the cost of living.