The economic wellbeing or standard of living of individuals and families is largely dependent on the economic and social resources available to provide for the consumption of goods and services and for participation in society. Such resources may be in the form of cash income received from wages and salaries or investments, or as income support from government. Other factors can also contribute to the level of consumption of goods and services, including using personal resources such as savings, services such as aged care, respite care and child care from government and welfare organisations, and assistance from family and friends.
Government programs aim to help the economically disadvantaged to achieve social and economic outcomes and to participate in society. Such programs include those of the Department of Family and Community Services (FaCS), which provides income security for the retired, people with disabilities, carers, unemployed people and families with children. Other departments provide income support for other special groups, such as war veterans, war widows and their families, and students. In addition to cash income, government programs also help those with low incomes to meet payments for housing through rent assistance, and for a range of goods and services through pensioner concession and health cards, and other services aimed at helping people in personal and social hardship. Other types of programs aim to provide assistance with employment and advocacy to people with disabilities.
This chapter provides information on the levels and sources of income of Australia's population and on the levels and patterns of expenditure on consumer goods and services. Further information is provided on the main income support programs of the Commonwealth Government, describing the eligibility requirements, numbers of beneficiaries and government expenditure on these programs. It covers these in four sections: Income support programs of the Department of Family and Community Services; Community support programs of the Department of Family and Community Services; Aged care programs of the Department of Health and Aged Care; and Services provided by the Department of Veterans' Affairs.