2 February 2023

Financial hardship this Christmas highlights need for more support for the vulnerable

More support is needed for the unemployed and those in poverty, and churches can help. Photo: iStock.

By Maya Pilbrow

21 December 2022

Unemployment and financial stress will affect many this Christmas season due to an ongoing crisis facing the most vulnerable in the workforce, experts say.

Anglicare Australia’s recently published Jobs Availability Snapshot 2022 concluded those with significant barriers to work were being left behind by the jobs market.

The report focused primarily on the lack of entry-level job vacancies across the country and inadequacies in employment services.

The Jobs Snapshot criticised the current system of mutual obligations for jobseekers, calling it one of the most punitive in the world.

Read more: ‘Band-Aid’ budget payments fail to address real issues driving poverty

Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union advocate Catherine Caine said job service providers did not cater to the actual needs of people seeking employment.

She said one of the biggest barriers to finding employment was poverty.

“If you want to do a job interview you need a clean outfit, you need reliable transport, you need a phone with credit, you need childcare if you’ve got kids. All those things are harder when you’re dealing with poverty,” she said.

Ms Caine also criticised the role of for-profit employment service providers, calling them an abomination.

The Jobs Snapshot advocated for an increase to the base rates of government support for the unemployed and for a drastic redesign of the system to prioritise the needs of people over the profitability of job service providers.

Ms Caine said the fight for unemployed workers’ rights affected everyone and was part of a larger effort to create a fairer society.

Read more: Anglican children invited to help brighten Christmas for Ukraine’s young people

Church communities also play an important role in supporting vulnerable people, especially during the holiday season, according to the Reverend Vivianne Dias, assistant minister at St Mark’s Emerald.

St Mark’s will hold a special Christmas service on 22 December for those who have experienced loss or struggle and for whom the celebrations of the Christmas season might prove difficult.

Ms Dias said it was important to acknowledge the pain and suffering that many felt during this season.

She said while issues of financial hardship, unemployment and other struggles needed to be addressed at a political level, churches could provide community support to those in need.

“There’s something really powerful that the Church has to offer,” she said.

“We believe that God suffered alongside us through Christ, and that’s an incredible truth that people can hold onto through their struggles.”

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