Community services in regional Queensland are working hard to meet the needs of their communities as unemployment rises and pressure on the social housing system builds.
QCOSS CEO Aimee McVeigh has been touring regional centres, meeting with social services providers in Mackay, Townsville, Cairns and Toowoomba to discuss plans to improve the wellbeing and resilience of people on low incomes and those who rely on community organisations to get by.
“We are hearing reports of people reaching out for assistance for the first time, having never previously accessed community services,” Ms McVeigh says.
“Youth unemployment is a major issue. In Toowoomba, the youth unemployment rate is 26.6 per cent – double the national average of 13.8 per cent.”
“To ensure that everyone is included in economic recovery and to help rebuild a better Queensland, the State Government must support the wellbeing and resilience of all Queenslanders, invest in local economies by creating jobs and ensure the social services sector can provide support to those who need it.”
QCOSS’ tour through regional centres followed an analysis of employment and housing data by the organisation, which indicates that alarming numbers of households in regional Queensland are likely to struggle as the economic impacts of COVID-19 continue to unfold.
QCOSS analysis shows that about 12 per cent of people in Cairns and Toowoomba were currently accessing JobSeeker, and in Cairns more than 7,500 organisations had applied for JobKeeper.
There are more than 1,200 families waiting to be housed on the government’s social housing register in Cairns and Townsville City Council areas, more than 65 per cent of them have a “high” or “very high” need for housing.
Ms McVeigh said the Federal Government is winding back JobSeeker support just when regional Queenslanders and local economies need it most, calling on the State Government to create a Community Sector Resilience Fund to ensure there is an adequate safety net for the growing number of people who need support.
“Services like community health, domestic and family violence prevention, community and neighbourhood centres, community housing and disability support organisations, have had to overcome significant service delivery challenges during COVID-19, while also experiencing increases in demand,” she says.
“During the COVID crisis, 54 per cent of our services in Queensland found the overall level of demand for services increased, and less than one in five organisations were able to meet the level of demand.”
QCOSS, the state’s peak body for the social services sector, has released a list of priorities in the lead up to the state election highlighting the need for community organisations to provide easy access to a no interest loan scheme for low-income households, reforms to make renting fair and job creation initiatives like building social housing.
“The pandemic has exposed how fundamental it is to have access to a safe and secure home, and an adequate income. There is no better time than now to address the levels of inequality experienced by Queenslanders,” Ms McVeigh says.
|Number of applications (family units) on social housing register (2019)1||1,389||1,218||478||564|
|Percentage of applicants determined to have a ‘high’ or ‘very high’ need for housing||72%||67%||59.3%||80.8%|
|Average time on the application for a household||13 months||12 months||9 months||10 months|
|Income support (by local government area)|
|People receiving JobSeeker payment||14,162||11,8885||6,235||13,578|
|Percentage of voting population receiving JobSeeker payment||13.53%||9.24%||7.77%||11.8%|
|Organisations that applied for JobKeeper as at June 2020||7,569||4,613||2,998||3,287|
1 Local government authority associated with the applicant household’s first locational preference