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Report Finds Over 50% of Australian Families Struggling With Financial Distress Due to Rising Cost of Living

Cost-of-living pressures are affecting more than half of Australian families as relief measures from Labor’s last Federal Budget continue to lose household support.

That’s according to a new report by Suicide Prevention Australia, which for the first time, found in the September quarter that 56 percent of Australian families experienced elevated cost-of-living distress “beyond normal levels.”
This follows data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), which found living costs for Australian households increased to either higher or equal to the consumer price index (CPI) from 0.8 percent to 1.5 percent in the June quarter.

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This also comes as Labor’s cost of living measures begin to be rolled out in September—a measure that will cost the federal government $4.7 billion (US$2.99 billion).

The report found that “cost-of-living and personal debt” was the highest causes of distress in the September quarter (46 percent), a significant increase from the previous quarter (40 percent) and from the same time last year (40 percent).

The report also found that households with children under the age of 18 were two times more likely to call a suicide prevention service for help (14 percent) after some of the highest rates of mental health diagnoses and suicidal behaviours were reported in the past 12 months.

Of the more than 1000 Australians surveyed, 28 percent with children found housing access and affordability the second concern after the cost of living and personal debt, followed by social isolation, loneliness, and family and relationship breakdowns.

Nieves Murray, CEO of Suicide Prevention Australia, said the findings from the report were a “warning sign” of the risks of distress experienced by Australian households and urged the federal government to do more.

“Feeding the family and keeping a roof over our heads are two of the most basic human needs,” said Nieves Murray, CEO of Suicide Prevention Australia, on Sept. 7.
“While interest rates are a matter for the RBA Board, we must be prepared and proactive to prevent distress and suicide rates from continuing to rise.”

Ms. Murray has also urged Australians experiencing difficulty with their mental health to seek help.

“If you are doing it tough, please reach out and get support. Help is available, and it can make a difference if you are struggling.”

Federal Government’s Relief Measures Will Not Ease Cost of Living Pressures

More than half (54 percent) of Australians surveyed said that the federal government’s relief measures will not ease cost-of-living pressures, compared to 31 percent who say the measures will improve their living situation.

Additionally, a quarter believe the relief measures will leave them worse off.

From Sept. 20, more than a million Australians on income support will see a payment increase of $40 per fortnight.

Single parenting payments will also increase to an additional $176.90 per fortnight for single parents with children aged up to 14.

Meanwhile, the maximum rate for Commonwealth rent assistance will increase by 15 percent, assisting over 1.1 million Australian households.

Australians with chronic health conditions will also be able to access two months’ worth of medications.

Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the measures were “what people need when they need it most.”

“Whether it’s cheaper medicines, more support to pay the bills, or a bit of help to pay the rent, these policies and programs are targeted to take the pressure off while times are toughest,” Mr. Chalmers said.

“We know that people are under significant pressure, which is why the Government’s number-one priority is to roll out billions of dollars in cost-of-living relief to take some of the edge off these inflationary pressures without making them worse.

“We are realistic about the challenges in the 12

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