North Coast needs help
By EMMA CORNFORD
THE NORTH Coast is one of the most socially disad- vantaged areas in New South Wales, with a greater percentage of the population on benefits than anywhere else in the State. According to the 2004 NSW chief health officer's report, 8.3 per cent of adults receive unemployment bene- fits while 68.3 per cent re- ceive aged pensions and 12.6 per cent disability or sick- ness payments. People also earn some of the least amounts in the State, with 17.5 per cent of households taking home less than $300 a week, compared with just 9.6 per cent in Sydney's west. The area also has the highest proportion of one- parent families with depen- dent children, (13.9 per cent), while 46.8 per cent of families receive family assis- tance. The member for Page, Ian Causley, said the figures came as no surprise. "Those kind of figures have been around for a long time," Mr Causley said. "In my experience there's always been a high number of single parents here be- cause it's cheaper than other areas . . . so people tend to gravitate to the area." Mr Causley said although unemployment had declined in recent years, the rate in the region was still one of the highest in the State, and acknowledged that some- thing had to be done. "(Unemployment) has come down dramatically . . . but perhaps one of the areas we need to have a look at is childcare because single parents maybe need more childcare in order to help them find jobs," he
said. The report also outlined a number of health trends throughout the State and region including a decline in smoking's popularity. But it suggests rural health still lags behind metropolitan areas. North Coast Area Health community relations manag- er Robin Osborne said the socio-economic disadvan- tages for people in the region could have serious effects on their health. "Socio-economic disadvan- tage can impact on people's health in various ways, in- cluding eating habits, smok- ing and exposure to other risk factors . . . so it is con- cerning that the North Coast has the greatest num- ber of households with in- comes under $300 per week, and the highest number of recipients of unemployment and family assistance bene- fits," Mr Osborne said. Mr Osborne said other se- rious concerns about the region included a rising number of 15 to 24-year-old females attempting suicide, a steady increase in people with diabetes and insuffi- cient levels of regular exer- cise by adolescents.