100 Families WA is a collaborative research project between the University of Western Australia (UWA) and eight not-for-profit organisations in the community services sector. The project recently released a report titled Insights into Hardship and Disadvantage in Perth, Western Australia: The 100 Families WA Baseline Report. The study involved baseline surveys with 400 families and in-depth interview with 100 families to understand entrenched disadvantage and social exclusion faced by them.

In a press release, Professor Paul Flatau, Director of the Centre for Social Impact at the UWA said the findings from the 100 Families WA report show a significant number of people in a low income position in Perth are facing substantial debt, utility bill and personal debt issues, as well as struggling to maintain rental payments.

The 100 Families WA study found among the 400 low income people surveyed, 54% had a debt arising from overdue household bills and 39% had a debt arising from overdue personal bills.

“Around a quarter of people surveyed face compounding debt issues and are taking out loans from payday lenders. This puts people in very adverse positions and, it’s clear people are facing high levels of financial stress – including stress-related illnesses – because of their financial circumstances and debt,” said Professor Flatau.

Two-thirds of people with debt reported experiencing inability to sleep as a result of having debt, 60.3% had experienced stress-related illness, and 47.5% reported physical ill health. More than 40% of families reported experiencing a relationship breakdown attributed to debt.

Anglicare WA CEO Mark Glasson said the 100 Families WA study substantiates what we know anecdotally that being in financial stress takes a toll on peoples mental and physical wellbeing, which often will impact on their personal relationships, exacerbating their experience of hardship and disadvantage.

“This often has a snowball effect; as it’s not unusual for clients accessing financial counselling to be referred for additional support services for family breakdown, domestic violence, mental health support as well as meeting basic needs such as food packages and utility grants,” said Mr Glasson.

Anglicare WA is currently partnering with Uniting Care West in leading the Financial Counselling Network (a collaboration of 14 not-for-profit organisations and local government providing these services in 25 locations across Perth) to help around 8,000 people annually.

Overall, the 100 Families WA project seeks to understand the lived experience of disadvantage such that actionable steps with regard to policy, practice, and advocacy can be made to break the cycle of entrenched disadvantage. Findings from this study will enable us to see the barriers that families face to function in the society they live as well as help us understand how these obstacles could be better overcome.

The report can be accessed here.

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