Cost-of-living crisis significantly impacting women in ACT: ACTCOSS

The following article was first published on 22 June 2023 on Linked In.
Lavinia Tyrrel, CEO Karinya House for Mothers and Babies

Women in Canberra are being significantly impacted by the cost-of-living crisis. ACTCOSS’ latest report, launched today, highlights that women are more likely to experience poverty than men – with 37% of separated-mother-headed families living below the poverty line nationally.

According to ACT Council Of Social Service (ACTCOSS), Canberra continues to have the most expensive overall median rental prices and is the least affordable jurisdiction in the country for people on low incomes.

This, combined with increases in the price of essential goods and services, has meant many low-income families in the ACT are having to make choices between fuel, rent and essential household goods.

ACTCOSS also find that the cost-of-living crisis has acute impacts for women who are parenting in our community. Women are more likely to be a primary carer, which limits their ability to engage in paid work or able to take up secure employment. The cost of childcare can also be prohibitive for women returning to the workforce; and for those that do, the gender pay gap in Canberra is $200 a week less for women than men on average. Two thirds of all single mothers have also experienced domestic or family violence.

Such vulnerabilities are heightened for women of Aboriginal and/or Torres Straight Islander or culturally and racially marginalised backgrounds, as well as women with a disability.

We have seen these trends reflected in our work, with more women being referred to Karinya House for Mothers & Babies with housing as their primary need – and others returning to our service for assistance as they come under financial stress. We are also seeing more women at risk of falling below the poverty line, and the opportunities for them to make change in their lives – such as affording a private rental – even more out of reach.  We and our partners have also seen a rise in requests for basic goods, such as nappies and wipes, from new mothers that we support. This is happening at the same time as the cost of delivering services rises, and as our wonderfully generous donors feel the pressure too.

ACTCOSS calls for increased social and affordable housing, as well as measures aimed at easing pressures on low-income households in Canberra. This includes raising the rate of government support payments.

Image: Lavinia pictured with Leah Dyer – Director of Policy and Advocacy YWCA Canberra, Devin Bowles – CEO ACTCOSS, Travis Gilbert – CEO ACT Shelter