Poverty is a reality for many individuals and families. But unless you've experienced poverty, it's difficult to truly understand. The Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS) bridges that gap from misconception to understanding.
The Poverty Sim was established over 20 years ago by the Missouri Association for Community Action in response to a range of local issues to promote poverty awareness, increase understanding, inspire local change and transform perspectives through participant's interactive immersion experience. It sensitizes community participants to the realities of poverty. The School of Nursing within the University of Adelaide has been utilising the Poverty Sim to highlight the daily stresses and challenges faced by those living in poverty.
Poverty in Australia
In their 2016 report, 'Our poverty in Australia', the Australian Council of Social Services outlined the poverty line for a single adult is $426.30 a week, defined here as 50 per cent of the median income. There are around three million people living in poverty in our nation. One in six children under the age of 15 lives in poverty. Child poverty in Australia increased by two percentage points over the decade 2003-04 to 2013-14. On average, more than 100,000 Australians are homeless each and every night. More than a quarter of those people afflicted by homelessness are under the age of 18 and around a quarter are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
People living in South Australia (with poverty rates of 14.7% and 24.2% respectively) and Western Australia (13.7% and 21.4% respectively) face the highest risk of poverty. Those living in the Australian Capital Territory (7.7% and 11.9% respectively) and Northern Territory (10.1% and 16.6% respectively) face the lowest risk of poverty.
About the Simulation
Simulation kits provide all the necessary tools to set-up the experience. The simulation takes place in a large room with ‘families’ seated in the middle. Participants assume the identity and circumstances of a person within a family experiencing life living in poverty for one month (there are up to 26 different families) – trying to maintain their basic needs. Around the perimeter of the room are tables representing community resources and services for families (such as banks, schools, groceries). Throughout the month participants will face the daily stresses and challenges a person in poverty faces. The duration of the simulation is between 2-4 hours, including a post simulation debrief.
Applications within the University and student learning context
Utilisation of the Poverty Sim within the School of Nursing is to encourage students to think about the difficulties of living in poverty for a month and to raise awareness among health graduates of the challenges that people may face on discharge from acute or community settings. Plans to use the Poverty Sim more broadly across disciplines are in progress.