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New approaches to unlocking intergenerational poverty

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

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Adequate funding for poverty-impacted children to participate in sports and the arts may be a powerful way to help them break free from the welfare dependency cycle, according to new Edith Cowan University (ECU) research.

Between 2016 and 2018, Vinnies WA partnered with ECU researchers to investigate the ways in which welfare dependency is communicated between generations within families.

The researchers, with the support of Vinnies and Vinnies’ families, conducted 50 interviews and case studies with volunteers, staff, service providers and the families themselves.

Lead researcher Professor Lelia Green, from ECU's School of Arts and Humanities, said the research had shown that Vinnies WA was successfully meeting the needs of many families in all their complexity.

“There are many ways into poverty and once a family is enmeshed within long-term welfare dependence, it’s difficult for them to change their future without support,” she said.

The research also showed that for children unable or unwilling to break the cycle through education, sports and the arts offered alternative pathways to craft a different future.

“However these dreams can be thwarted by simple points of access, such as team uniform and equipment, membership fees, a commitment to training, transport to sporting facilities etc,” Professor Green said.

“Health Care card holders may currently receive a $200 voucher per year per child towards sports and physical activity, but this would often not cover registration fees, let alone other expenses, and there is no support for the arts,” she said.

The research also found:

  • Welfare-impacted adults may find it empowering to tell their stories to others as a means of identifying positive turning points in their lives and celebrating individual agency.
  • Vinnies’ emergency assistance service and specialist support programs offer a positive strategy for responding to the complex needs of disadvantaged families.

The research as a whole also informed a submission to the House of Representatives Select Committee Inquiry into Intergenerational Welfare Dependence.

A self-contained project within the wider research, led by ECU Associate Professor Panizza Allmark, focussed on Vinnies youth camps. It provided a creative intervention in the form of a photography workshop, which led to an exhibition of children’s creative work.

Vinnies in WA last year provided services to over 41,000 people across the state.  The greatest number of requests are for assistance with food, utility costs, and rent arrears amounting to nearly $3 million dollars of financial support delivered. Vinnies also provides support in a range of other ways and is able to be flexible with assistance for the family or individual depending upon the need and situation.

Executive Manager Andrew York said: “Whilst we feel heartened that the ECU research identifies that Vinnies has a positive impact on the families we serve unfortunately we can currently only support 50 per cent of people who request emergency relief and support with frontline services facing increased demands.”

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