The latest regional snapshot shines the light on poverty and inequality in New South Wales

HARD TIMES: Poverty and inequality should not be harming our children.
HARD TIMES: Poverty and inequality should not be harming our children.

More than 9,800 children are living below the poverty line in the Mid North Coast, according to a new report.

New South Wales Council of Social Services (NCOSS) have released findings of a report which aims to find ways to help alleviate poverty and inequality in the state.

The report, three years in the making, heard from over 570 community services and leaders as well as over 400 people living below the poverty line, who said the top areas they would like the government to focus on were a quality affordable health care system with specific mention to mental health facilities, housing, a quality education system, more jobs and reducing crime.

“We heard about what would make a real difference in these areas, that a one size fits all approach does not work, and that we need to be inclusive and celebrate our diversity,” NCOSS chief executive officer Tracey Howe said.

The report pointed to the “sobering reality” that one in seven children are living below the poverty line, and that “all to often this shapes their entire life course”.

“Not everyone starts on an equal footing.

“We need targeted solutions, led by communities, that recognise multiple and intersecting forms of disadvantage,” Ms Howe said.

The report also found that across NSW there is a chronic shortage of affordable housing, with an estimated shortfall of at least 130,000 dwellings along with rental affordability at an all-time low.

The waitlist for social housing also continues to grow and the report showed that more and more people are being forced to move away from services and opportunities, or live in conditions that fall well below basic human rights.

Kevin Unicomb, Major at the Port Macquarie Salvation Army said that while there is poverty in the Hastings, it comes down to having a robust the family unit.

“Certainly we do see poverty in Port Macquarie, and people do leave the area particularly because the cost of living very high, but generally Port Macquarie is well off compared with places like Taree and Kempsey,” Mr Unicomb said.

“For us, we aren’t really seeing an increase in poverty, but we are seeing an increase in dysfunction within the family unit which is leading to a range of other issues for families in the area.

“The fact that we are trying to target problems after they happen is part of the problem, we need to start focusing on families and how they deal with each other, because increasingly parents don’t have the skills to educate their children.

“We blame teachers and schools but we need to focus on families and what is happening at home,” he said.