8000 people in Clarence living in poverty
ALMOST one in five people living in the Clarence Valley are at economic disadvantage, and local service providers say the problem isn't going away.
The NSW Council of Social Service Report Mapping Economic Disadvantage in New South Wales shows the rate of people living in economic disadvantage in differing parts of the state.
According to the report, people experience significant economic disadvantage when their household's disposable income (after paying tax) falls below a level considered adequate to achieve an acceptable standard of living.
In the Clarence Valley, the Maclean/Iluka/Yamba statistical area shows 17.5 per cent of the area living in economic disadvantage, or around 2,500 people.
This compares poorly to the state average of 13.3 per cent, and the regional NSW average of 14.6 per cent.
In the Greater Grafton Region, this figure rises to 18.2 per cent, or 2,400 people and 19.2 per cent, or 3,100 people in Grafton itself.
Responding to the Northern NSW survey social justice organisation Social Futures chief executive Tony Davies said that the myth of the coastal areas being a paradise was shown up by the figures.
"Low incomes and high unemployment rates, coupled with high rates of housing stress, mean that many of these communities have significantly higher rates of poverty than the rest of the state," he said.
"With many communities facing the additional bite of the drought it has never been more important for government to take real action to address the inequality in regional communities.
"We urgently need the government to invest in social housing, early childhood education and to raise the Newstart Allowance in order to break the cycle of poverty," he said.
While the report draws its figures from a combination of the 2016 ABS Population and Housing Census and 2015/16 ABS Survey, Vinnies NSW CEO jack de Groot said they were still having to provide support for many across its Lismore area, which includes the Clarence Valley.
"In the past financial year Vinnies has provided more than $2.4 million in assistance throughout the Lismore region," he said.
"42 per cent of those people sought assistance due to a lack of food, while pressure with energy bills and rising cost of living expenses has also seen a demand for our support.
"Vinnies recently released the Households in the Dark report which revealed that 29 of the top 30 postcodes for electricity disconnections were in regional and rural areas of the state. What both these reports highlight is the need for political action to address the economic pressures households are currently feeling."
"If people are struggling I urge them to get in contact with Vinnies by calling 13 18 12 or visiting one of our shops. We offer a range of services such as providing food parcels, finding accommodation for people at risk of homelessness and energy assistance through the NSW Government's Energy Accounts Payments Assistance (EAPA) scheme.
On the North Coast, the Lismore area has the highest poverty rate at 21.3 per cent, and Lennox Head the lowest, with only 8.3 per cent considered to be at disadvantage.