TASMANIA is set to take over the unenviable mantle of having Australia's worst poverty rates, with one in four caught in a growing ``crisis of affordability''.
That's the bleak prediction from Tasmania's peak body for community services struggling to cope with demand from people forced to choose between paying bills or putting food on the table.
Speaking at the launch of Anti-Poverty Week yesterday, Tasmanian Council of Social Services chief executive Tony Reidy said the situation had worsened since the most recent figures released in 2012 showed 24 per cent were living in poverty or on the cusp of it.
About 13 per cent live below the internationally accepted poverty line set at half the nation's median wage of just $358 a week for a single adult or $752 for a couple with two children.
Mr Reidy expected Tasmania's poverty rate would soon top New South Wales, which last year recorded the highest proportion of people unable to make ends meet.
``That's a position we don't want but the sort of statistics we're seeing at the moment with regard to employment and employment opportunities are certainly going to be driving more and more Tasmanians into poverty,'' Mr Reidy said.
He blamed steady increases in unemployment and a lack of private investment during the last 12 months.
``We've also had many instances of very important generation-long regional employment going out the window with no alternative for those people to provide some sort of support to their own families.''
The sector has been campaigning strongly for an urgent increase in the Newstart Allowance, paid to people looking for work, and Mr Reidy said there were some positive signs from the new Coalition government about addressing that.
Human Services Minister Cassy O'Connor said the widening gap between the rich and poor impacted most on children.
She highlighted state government measures aimed at helping the poor such as energy efficiency upgrades to low-income households, lower power prices, investing in child and family centres, neighbourhood houses, education and disability care reforms.
``You can't tackle poverty overnight, no one arm of government can do so, no one community organisation can do so, it's a collective responsibility.''