Children are not attending school in Toowoomba because their parents can’t afford their lunches or fuel to get them there, social services warn.

The heartbreaking circumstances have sparked renewed calls for an increase in cost-of-living support for struggling Queenslanders, as services from across the Darling Downs meet in Toowoomba today.

Queensland’s peak body for community services, the Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS), will today meet with Southern Queensland community organisations to discuss the social issues most affecting residents.

Aimee McVeigh, CEO of QCOSS, which is leading the Make Queensland Fair Campaign, said reports of some children not being able to attend school due to the cost-of-living crisis were alarming, with urgent investment needed in the state budget to help low-income families.

“The State Government will deliver its budget in less than a month and it must do more to help struggling Queenslanders, in particular vulnerable families with children. The State Opposition must also address this in their budget reply,” Ms McVeigh said.

“Every parent should be able to afford to feed their children. We cannot allow this crisis to get worse.”

Sue Cooke, CEO of Anglicare Southern Queensland, which is a partner in the Make Queensland Fair Campaign, said the handout of food vouchers had increased this year, more families were relying on clothing handouts with winter fast approaching, and school attendance was starting to become more difficult for some families.

“Our team in Toowoomba are working with many families who are struggling to afford the basic necessities such as housing, utilities, food, fuel and healthcare,” Ms Cooke said.

“They are living paycheck to paycheck and sadly in some instances, families have expressed concerns that they can’t afford to send their children to school because they don’t have fuel for the week or enough food for lunches.

“We’re certainly concerned about these kinds of impacts on families. Education is the pathway out of poverty and to building a brighter and better future, so stability is very important in a child’s life,” Ms Cooke said.

Last month, Anglicare Southern Queensland’s annual Rental Affordability Snapshot also revealed a deepening housing crisis for vulnerable Southern Queensland residents.

“From the 422 rental properties available in the Darling Downs-Maranoa region, only 23 were affordable and appropriate for households on income support and a total of 194 were affordable and appropriate for those on minimum wage,” CEO Sue Cooke said.

“This region covers more than 160,000km2, so the affordable properties that do exist might actually be hundreds of kilometres away in a different town.

“Unfortunately, these figures highlight the stark reality of the cost-of-living crisis in regional Queensland, now the most unaffordable place to rent a home in Australia.”

Ms McVeigh said the State Government’s recent announcement of a $1000 power bill rebate showed that the state can share its prosperity at budget time.

“We need to see rent increases kept under control. We need more financial support for our frontline services, food and bill relief and support for vulnerable families,” Ms McVeigh said.

The Make Queensland Fair Campaign is calling for investment that will make community organisations financially sustainable, end the housing crisis, reduce the cost of living and ensure families with children get more support.

17 May 2024