Cost of Living

Cost of Living hurts Victorians

Do you know someone struggling to make ends meet? 

Do you have a friend who lost their job in the pandemic? 

The answer is most surely yes. 

The pandemic led to unemployment, but also hit our pockets due to shortages. When the price of basic necessities like food, fuel and gas rise, vulnerable households are hit hardest because they have less disposable income. This leads to thousands of families and individuals going without essentials. 

This is where St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria (Vinnies Victoria) steps in.

Pay for heating or buy food?

It is increasingly difficult for people on low incomes, JobSeeker, disability support, aged-care pensions or single parents to manage cost of living expenses, which generally rise year on year – last year these expenses rose 6.1%. People are faced with terrible choices, such as paying a gas bill or skipping meals. We believe this is unjust. 

In the 6 months from April-Oct 2022, Vinnies Victoria has seen: 

  • 30% overall rise in calls to our metro Melbourne welfare call line 
  • 60% rise in new calls from people on wages or salary 
  • 46% rise in new callers on JobSeeker
How Vinnies helps

Vinnies Victoria’s Cost of Living programs focus on assisting people on low or fixed incomes who cannot afford basic household bills – or what most people would call a ‘decent’ standard of living. Our volunteers get to know people and the ‘whole picture’ of their situation, then together they plan how best we can assist them. Our programs include: 

  • Advocacy to utility or credit providers: Often a call from a St Vincent de Paul Society volunteer secures an outcome that the individual had been unable to achieve – such as getting energy bill arrears waived. Our volunteers also make sure a household is accessing all the utility discounts available and we provide budgeting assistance.
  • Emergency financial support: After our volunteers have made sure that people are accessing all discounts and government support available, if they are still in financial difficulties, Vinnies Victoria will often step in to pay an outstanding bill that has been causing worry, pay for essential medicines or fuel to attend cancer treatments. These are just a few examples of the kind of practical, material help our volunteers deliver.
  • No Interest Loans Scheme (NILS): We provide loans for low-income earners to pay for essential household goods and expenses. 
  • Energy market monitoring: For almost two decades, Vinnies Victoria has produced leading tariff-checking reports monitoring the impact of bill rises on vulnerable households and we lobby providers for an equitable energy market.
  • Housing and financial counselling assistance: Our specialised homelessness and housing services provider, VincentCare, assists some of Victoria’s most vulnerable communities, such as people experiencing family violence or dealing with drug and alcohol dependency, with free financial counselling and other support.

Small things make a big difference

Vinnies’ Cost of Living programs demonstrate the humanity at the heart of our work. When our volunteers see someone struggling, they say, ‘Here, let us take care of that for you’. We step in to pay people’s bills and take a load off their minds. That is how we help people with dignity. 
The relief we see on their faces, or often the tear in their eye, is why. 

Last year, Vinnies spent $4.3m on assisting Victorians with cost of living expenses, including medical costs, paying for household items and utility bills. 

But it’s the human stories rather than figures that best illustrate Vinnies’ Good Works. People like Theresa who needed a raft of daily tablets after a stroke. Or Natasha who was expecting a baby but couldn’t afford a bassinet and all the other essentials needed for a newborn. You can read their stories below.

Small things like paying for a child’s reading glasses make a big difference to that child. You can make that difference happen in someone’s life by donating to our Christmas Appeal below.

People often ask …

How many people in Australia struggle to make ends meet?
A report last year by the Australian Council of Social Service and the University of NSW found that there are 3 million people in Australia are living below the ‘poverty line’. That’s more than one in eight adults and one in six children. The report’s researcher Associate Professor Dr Bruce Bradbury said: “The poverty rate in Australia is worse than in most other wealthy countries, including New Zealand, Germany and Ireland.”

What is the ‘poverty line’? Why are so many people living in poverty?
In Australia, the poverty line is $457 per week for a single adult. The poverty line is measured as 50% of median income. A lack of affordable housing, unemployment and the low level of government benefits are some of the reasons why so many Australians are living in poverty. JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and Rent Assistance have not increased in real terms in 25 years. 

What can I do to help?
You can help by either donating to one of our campaigns if you can afford to, or donating your time as a volunteer to help us alleviate the grinding reality of poverty that many people you know will be facing today.