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Surge in homeless families seeking help.

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SURGE IN HOMELESS FAMILIES SEEKING HELP In a worrying sign this Christmas new figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) have revealed a sharp rise in families accessing services for the homeless. Demand for services today has surged 20% compared to the levels in 1996-97 with homeless families accessing housing support services on 48,000 occasions in 2002-03. The latest figures show these families were accompanied by 53,800 children. Most of the increase has occurred since 2000-01 with the numbers spiking from 41,400 to 48,000 - an increase of almost 7,000. Australia is a wealthy country but these disturbing figures hit home the message that the benefits of economic growth are not being shared fairly. These figures along with other social statistics, such as the number of children in jobless families, confirm the Howard Government's policies are fuelling poverty and inequality. The startling figures are from successive AIHW annual reports on the Supported Accommodation Assistance program (SAAP): 96-97 97-98 98-99 99-00 00-01 01-02 02-03 Occasions Families Assisted1 39,700 43,600 41,900 41,600 41,400 46,200 48,000 These figures follow a report last week from Anglicare showing over 40% of families accessing their welfare services reported their children were going hungry because they couldn't afford food. The Howard Government is not serious about tackling the problems of disadvantaged families and their children. While a handful of funding has been allocated to community welfare organisations to provide successful family homelessness pilots they have not committed to continue funding beyond June 2004. John Howard has not defended battling families as he promised on his election in 1996 - he has only created more of them. ENDS Monday 22 Dec 03 Web: Contact: Wayne Swan on 0418 795 329 Matt Linden on 0407 430 613 1 Number of support periods recorded for families (Families are defined as: single parent with child(ren), couple with child(ren) and couple without children.) Source: Annual SAAP National Data Collection Reports 1996-97 to 2002-03 Wayne Swan MP

Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services