Salvation Army, Vinnies kept busy in festive times
CHARITIES face growing demand on their services these holidays as more families struggle to cope with the pressures of Christmas.
The Salvation Army expects to help more than 300,000 Australians this Christmas, with recent surveys showing 55% of disadvantaged people were unable to give presents to friends and family at least once a year.
They are dealing with a steady increase in homelessness, with one in 50 Australians living rough or in severely overpopulated dwellings at the last Census in 2011 - up 8% since 2006.
Salvation Army Major Bruce Harmer said calls to the service's help line increased by 18% last year in January.
"What we know is that the Salvo Care Line gets more calls in the period during and after Christmas than at any other time of year," he said. "A lot of people feel the pain and pressure of loneliness, stress, financial difficulty, relationship breakdown or family conflict during this period than at any other time of the year.
"Sometimes it's the expectations on themselves, other family members and friends and the idea of having 'a perfect time' that can cause issues."
The Salvation Army will have served about 10,000 meals in the lead-up to Christmas and on the day itself, with more than 500,000 toys and presents distributed through its Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal.
More than 100,000 food vouchers will also be given to people in need.
The St Vincent De Paul Society will be similarly busy these holidays and has called on the government to increase support to aid agencies, on the back of findings 80% of frontline agencies were unable to meet current levels of demand.
The Australia Institute of Health and Welfare earlier this month found 254,000 people had accessed specialist homelessness services in 2013-14 - an increase of 4% on the previous year.
"It is clear that the issues of homelessness, disadvantage and the subsequent demands on the community sector are not going away. In 2015 we ask the government to work with charities, which play a vital role in a robust civil society but which should never be the default mode of delivering social security," national president Anthony Thornton said.
"Greater investment in social expenditure, including spending on social security, housing, health and education, makes economic sense because it is an investment in people and communities.
"The idea of Team Australia is hollow when so many people are left on the sideline."
Number of homeless at 2011 Census
Southern Downs (East) - 5
Southern Downs (West) - 10
Warwick - 26
Stanthorpe (inner) - 10
Stanthorpe region - 27
TOTAL - 91
The Salvation Army's 2014 Social Impact Survey covered 2485 disadvantaged Australians.
Of the 2485 respondents, 1236 had children.
55% of people said they did not have a lot of friends and 43% said they felt lonely
55% said they were not able to give presents to family or friends at least once a year
88% said they could not afford at least a week's holiday away from home each year
38% said they did not have regular social contact with other people
26% said they did not have a good meal at least once a day
WHERE TO DONATE
Salvation Army - visit http://www.salvos.org.au or call 13 SALVOS (13 72 58)
Swags for Homeless - visit http://www.swags.org.au or call (07) 3286 9834
Rosies - visit http://www.rosies.org.au or call 1300 ROSIES (1300 767 437)