THE annual Vinnies CEO Sleepout will go ahead on Thursday, June 18, as a national online event due to COVID-19 restrictions, at a time when homelessness and poverty in Australia are on the rise.
Participants will nominate to sleep in their cars, on their couch or outdoors in their backyard, while taking part in a live-stream hosted by television personality Dr Andrew Rochford.
The funds raised will go to Vinnies, as the organisation maintains its mission of providing support to people at risk of or experiencing homelessness, as well as programs and services designed to break the cycle of poverty.
A newly released report shows a rise in poverty in Queensland, even before the COVID-19 crisis set in.
Queensland Council of Social Service chief executive officer Aimee McVeigh said the report, which analyses Australian Bureau of Statistics data from 2017-18, should alarm politicians in Queensland and Canberra.
“We simply can’t go back to the situation where people are expected to make the choice between putting food on their table, seeking medical help or paying their bills,” Ms McVeigh said.
“In the two years to 2018, we witnessed a significant increase in the number of people experiencing poverty in Queensland.
“We also know that the rate of poverty in Queensland is 1.7 per cent higher than the national average”.
In response to the pandemic crisis, the Federal government effectively doubled the JobSeeker payment, a move that QCOSS said had changed the lives of thousands of people overnight.
“Right now, people are no longer having to choose between skipping meals and keeping the lights on,” Ms McVeigh said.
“We can’t go back to expecting people to live on $40 a day – it is unconscionable and it is forcing 773,000 Queenslanders into impossible choices and subjecting them to poverty.”
The report, by ACOSS and the University of New South Wales analysing ABS data from 2017–18, found that 15.3 per cent of Queenslanders were living in poverty, compared to the Australia-wide figure of 13.6 per cent.
A report from the previous year, 2015-2016, found 13 per cent of people lived in poverty in Queensland.
With Queensland’s population at 5.05 million people in 2018, the ACOSS/UNSW report indicates there were 773,078 people experiencing poverty in the state in 2018.
ACOSS said the report provides a baseline against which to measure the impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic on poverty in Australia.
Ms McVeigh warned that the government must not phase out the COVID supplement in September without having an appropriate social safety net in place.
“Queensland, and Australia as a whole, will not be able to recover our economies if people do not have enough income to spend on three square meals a day, let alone wider essentials and other goods,” she said.
“With the findings from this report, and the realities we face in Queensland as we rebuild our economy, there is no better time than now for our elected representatives to truly work for Queenslanders and build back better.”
The Vinnies CEO Sleepout site https://www.ceosleepout.org.au/donation
offers a number of donation options – to sponsor a CEO, to feed a family for a day, to help a family keep power on this winter, and to help relocate a person sleeping rough to accommodation services.