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Poor burdened by debt

----- NZ Council of Christian Social Services Media Release ----

Poor burdened by debt

Families needing help from foodbanks are burdened by debt according to a report released today.

The study of people using seven foodbanks across New Zealand, undertaken by the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services, shows that most households had debt and that this debt was often to government agencies.

"We are concerned that at a time of better economic prosperity there are still many families who struggle under the burden of low disposable incomes and unsustainable debt", said Council spokesperson Major Campbell Roberts.

According to the Poverty Indicator Project report, those seeking foodbank help have low incomes and relatively high housing costs. The report suggests that debt is the likely consequence of this ongoing situation and that a household's circumstances are further compromised by having to service the debt.

"People we are seeing at the foodbanks often have debt to a number of government departments as well as private lending agencies", said Major Roberts. "There are some families who do not make good financial decisions; however, the research shows that many families just don't have enough to make ends meet."

At six out of the seven foodbanks that are part of the Poverty Indicator Project study, the percentage of clients in debt ranged from 41% to 87%. 36% to 69% of clients at these six foodbanks had debt to the department of Work and Income. Median weekly after-tax incomes ranged from $214 to $341 compared with the estimated NZ median of $724.

The report follows a recently released study the Council commissioned on the impact of debt on low income families.

The Poverty Indicator Project has been running since late 2000. It reports quarterly on the circumstances of people requiring foodbank help.

Key Results

The following pages summarise the key results by agency. If you want further information for your region please contact Andrew Green at NZCCSS ph (04) 473 2627.

Information about NZCCSS and the Poverty Indicator Project

The New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services (NZCCSS) represents the social services of the Anglican, Baptist, Catholic and Presbyterian Churches as well as the Methodist Church and the Salvation Army. Collectively, our members have around 550 social service delivery sites across the country.

The Poverty Indicator Project has been running in this format since the beginning of 2001. Ten previous quarterly reports have been produced.

The Project focuses on key results about the housing, income, employment and debt circumstances of clients who have gone to seven foodbanks - one each in Invercargill, Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Palmerston North, Hamilton, and Manukau City.

Local foodbank contacts are available from Andrew Green at NZCCSS (04) 473 2627.

Note that this is only an indication of poverty in two ways:

- it only measures results from a small sub-set of the total number of foodbanks in NZ (approx. 300); and

- those coming to foodbanks are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of those experiencing some form of poverty. They are the ones who have the courage and/or are desperate enough to ask for food - usually after exhausting or being refused other forms of help.

Key Statistics

A selection of 3rd Quarter 2003 (1 Jul - 30 Sep 2003) Poverty Indicator Project Results

Southland Foodbank Presbyterian Support Otago Christchurch City Mission Wellington Downtown Community Ministry Palmerston North Methodist Mission Hamilton Combined Christian Foodbank Manukau Salvation Army

Avg. number of Applicants Per month 43 118 113 61 72 116 217

% of respondents who are female 74% 57% 60% 34% 59% 65% 78%

% of respondents who are sole parents 42% 25% 36% 11% 34% 41% 48%

% of respondents who are single 25% 34% 32% 74% 38% 20% 8%

% of respondent households with children 74% 48% 56% 20% 50% 70% 89%

Median Income $313 $244 $289 $220 $214 $300 $341

Median housing cost $120 $100 $135 $110 $107 $143 $178

Median Disposable Income $180 $141 $148 $110 $130 $176 $169

% of respondents spending more than 30% of their income on housing 83% 74% 83% 84% 79% 86% 82%

% of respondents spending more than 50% of their income on housing 24% 28% 43% 44% 47% 46% 50%

% of applicants in debt 41% 69% 87% 57% 83% 20% 81%

% of applicants in debt to Work and Income 36% 59% 69% 57% 49% 18% 58%

Quarterly and Annual Change

Comparison of PIP figures from 3rd Quarter 2003 with 2nd Quarter 2003 and 3rd Quarter 2002 figures. Negative values indicate a decrease over time.

Southland Foodbank Presbyterian Support Otago Christchurch City Mission Wellington Downtown Community Ministry Palmerston North Methodist Mission Hamilton Combined Christian Foodbank Manukau Salvation Army

Qtrĉ Yrĉ Qtrĉ Yrĉ Qtrĉ Yrĉ Qtrĉ Yrĉ Qtrĉ Yrĉ Qtrĉ Yrĉ Qtrĉ Yrĉ

Avg. number of Applicants Per month 12 1 -14 -37 -16 -152 3 -1 -7 -28 18 -38 63 32

% of respondents who are female -4% 6% -3% 1% -0% 3% 3% -15% 4% -3% -1% 3% 1% 6%

% of respondents who are sole parents -15% -8% -4% -3% 0% -1% 1% 2% -3% -6% 3% -7% -2% 4%

% of respondents who are single 15% 2% 4% -5% -7% -2% 7% 7% 4% 11% -1% 2% 3% -7%

% of respondent households with children -11% 2% -7% 2% -2% -6% -8% -10% -5% -10% 5% 12% -1% 7%

Median Income -$7 -$7 -$29 -$23 $9 $29 $30 $61 -$19 -$38 $20 $20 -$12 $61

Median housing cost $0 $8 -$10 -$10 $15 $12 $4 $5 -$4 -$14 $3 -$8 $3 $28

Average (mean) Disposable Income -$16 -$6 -$19 -$16 $12 $8 $15 $44 -$12 -$15 $36 $16 -$21 $44

% of respondents spending more than 30% of their income on housing 11% 7% 1% -1% 2% -5% 1% 6% 3% 0% 6% 7% 1% 1%

% of respondents spending more than 50% of their income on housing 4% 10% 0% -1% -6% -2% -14% -28% 9% 2% -1% -3% 6% -6%

% of applicants in debt -5% -7% -6% -6% 3% -0% -10% -7% -1% -7% -4% 6% -1% 26%

% of applicants in debt to Work and Income -7% -0% -6% 9% -1% -1% 1% 5% -7% -6% -5% 6% -3% 18%


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