The impact of WA’s economic woes on the ability of Western Australians to keep a roof over their head is becoming evident in a number of sources.
The annual report on demand for homelessness services released this month by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reveals more than 23,000 people accessed homelessness services in WA in 2014-2015. This is an increase of 7.4% on the previous year. The figures also show a dramatic spike in people seeking support because of financial difficulties with 2,450 more people seeking help than in 2011/12.
In addition, figures from the Reserve Bank of Australia, cited today by Guy Debelle, Assistant Governor (Financial Markets) show that Western Australia is now leading the nation in mortgage defaults. Which he says is, “consistent with variation in local economic conditions across the states.”
Chantal Roberts, Executive Officer of Shelter WA, said, “figures from both of these sources show that the economic downturn in WA, due to the slowdown in the mining industry, means many people are facing a dramatic change in financial circumstances. For some people this will impact on on their ability to keep themselves and their families housed.
“The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) figures also reveal that financial or legal services were provided to less than half of all people seeking this assistance. This is of great concern. This makes it extremely difficult for people to keep a roof over their head.”
Charles Brown, Executive Officer of the Financial Counsellors’ Association of WA, said there was limited capacity to meet client need in these difficult economic times.
“The financial counselling sector has, like many others in the social services, experienced a significant reduction in funding this year,” he said.
“We have worked with the State Government to devise a new service model, but ultimately there are less financial counsellors in fewer locations, including within organisations working with people at risk of homelessness or repossession of their home by their bank. Several of our members have reported waitlists over a month long. There is simply less help available across the board for the people who need it most.”
Ms Roberts said reducing social services in tight economic times will ultimately be more costly to governments.
“When people become homeless their health and employment prospects suffer greatly, this eventually causes a greater cost to the government and taxpayer. It is important for governments to prioritise the needs of Western Australians who are seeking help to manage their finances to keep a roof over their heads,” she said.