VISITS to the doctor and hot meals are luxuries many of us simply can’t afford as one in four Orange adults rely on welfare payments to make ends meet, according to the head of Orange’s Salvation Army.
Major Greg Saunders estimates a quarter of Orange’s population receives at least some form of welfare support, including a pension and unemployment benefits.
Figures released by the charity this week show that in the last 12 months Orange’s Salvation Army alone has helped 394 clients, with 519 dependant children, at a total cost of $87, 313.19.
While there’s long been a reliance on charities to help battlers get by, Major Saunders expects organisations such as his own to come under increasing pressure following cuts announced in last week’s federal budget.
“I’m concerned that it will all fall on our shoulders, we’re busy enough and I worry about the resources which will be needed,” he said.
“I think genuine people are going to suffer.”
Major Saunders said the introduction of the $7 Medicare co-contribution fee will hit some people hard.
“I often see people who do not go to the doctor now because they can’t afford it,” he said.
“I know a woman who had dental treatment but ended up with a jaw infection because she couldn’t afford the medication she needed.
“Sometimes people in desperate situations do stupid things. It’s easy to stand in judgment of others.”
Major Saunders said while there were certainly people who took advantage of charities and welfare assistance, a large number of people on unemployment benefits were “struggling”.
When times are tough Major Saunders said people were at risk of becoming depressed or suicidal.
“Men take a lot longer to come in and see us, it’s mainly women who come in,” he said.
“It’s because of men’s pride, by the time we see them they’re often self-medicating and angry.”
Major Saunders said finding his clients a job was a priority, whether it was as a paid employee or as a volunteer.
“You’re not a full human being if you don’t work in one form or another,” he said.
Major Saunders said while the federal budget aimed to address the country’s economic situation, he wished more thought went into helping vulnerable members of society.
“We need to do something to help people find pathways from their situation to a better one,” he said.
“We can’t keep doing what we’re doing or we’ll get to the point of overload.”
Major Saunders’ comments come after the release of the Salvation Army’s annual Economic and Social Impact Survey (ESIS) in the lead-up to this weekend’s Red Shield Appeal Doorknock.
The ESIS shows that of the almost 2500 welfare clients surveyed in Australia, one in four are unable to afford a substantial meal at least once a day and 91 percent have limited or no savings for emergencies.