Eating just one meal every two days, not turning lights on at night, and taking on unsustainable credit are just some of the ways Queenslanders are surviving the cost-of-living crisis, which must be addressed in the upcoming state budget.

QCOSS CEO Aimee McVeigh said the debt some Queenslanders were experiencing had reached distressing levels, and the Palaszczuk Government needed to provide both urgent relief and longer-term solutions to reduce household costs and fix the housing crisis.

“Community services are seeing skyrocketing demand for free food and shopping vouchers. Families are going hungry – even full-time working couples are now needing help to meet soaring rents, energy, and grocery costs,” McVeigh said.

“Skipping meals has reached extreme levels, with Vinnies Queensland reporting a number of clients who are only eating one meal every two days.

“We are seeing rising mental health issues because of compounding financial stress, and Queenslanders taking on unsustainable debt just to pay household bills.

“The shortage of supply in social and affordable housing also means there is no safety net for so many Queenslanders who are facing homelessness, or are sleeping in cars, tents, motels, and under bridges and in parks.

“It’s crucial that next week’s state budget helps the Queenslanders who need it the most.”

Vinnies Queensland CEO Kevin Mercer said: “We are hearing from too many Queensland families with only enough money to either pay rent or put food on the table that week – but not both. That’s a decision no one should have to make.

“Already in 2023, we’ve seen a 15 per cent increase in requests for support compared to 2022 – the majority of which are struggling with the rising cost of living and housing,” Mr Mercer said.

Neighbourhood Centres Queensland (NCQ) Acting CEO Chris Mundy said about 150 centres across the state were responding to “extreme increases in demand for emergency relief as the result of cost of living pressures”.

“The median amount of emergency food relief being provided per Neighbourhood Centre has increased from 100Kg a month in 2019, to 200Kg a month in 2021, and then 375Kg a month in 2022. It’s a steep upward trend. This year, things have gotten tougher again with the rising cost of living, and we’re seeing more people in desperate need of food than ever before,” Mr Mundy said.

“Three quarters of the Neighbourhood and Community Centres across the state are now supporting people with emergency material relief, such as clothing, cash, bill payments, public transport cards, fuel cards, and food vouchers.”

Meals on Wheels Queensland CEO Evan Hill said their volunteers were reporting that clients were reducing their number of meals in some cases, and reducing their electricity usage.

“Volunteers are seeing, more and more during home visits, clients who are not using their electricity, which is particularly worrisome with the cold weather,” Mr Hill said. “We know how important good nutrition is as a determinant for ageing well, so older Australians being forced into risky choices where they reduce their number of meals per week is a major concern.”

Statewide, community services have reported:

  • skyrocketing demand for free food and food vouchers
  • an increase in bankruptcies and cash-strapped Queenslanders being scammed
  • elderly Queenslanders not turning on lights or heating
  • people signing up for unaffordable credit and leases
  • Queenslanders who’ve never required help before needing it, including families with two full-time workers and couples working full-time
  • families foregoing meals, medical and dental care, and education costs to pay bills.

As a result, QCOSS is calling on the Palaszczuk Government to significantly increase energy relief for all low income households, and provide longer-term solutions, including incentives to buy more efficient energy household items, and solar solutions for social housing.

Housing remains a key priority, with soaring rents and mortgages, and a current housing supply shortage forcing more and more Queenslanders into financial stress.

“Queensland needs more than 6,000 social and affordable homes to built each year by the Palaszczuk Government, about ten times what is currently being built,” McVeigh said. “This budget is a golden opportunity to change the trajectory of the current housing crisis.”

McVeigh said the under-resourced community sector also needed more funding to meet the unprecedented demand they were facing and the soaring costs of providing help.

“Currently, community service workers are donating their own money and time to people in desperate need, because government funding is not enough. It’s unsustainable.”

For interviews, please contact the QCOSS Media Advisor on 0481 854 101.

5 June 2023