A major report by the Salvation Army shows an alarming number of Australians living below the poverty line, with many trying to survive on just $18 a day after accommodation expenses. The survey of people visiting the Salvation Army's network of 262 centres around Australia for help shows one in four missed at least one meal a day as a result of extreme financial stress, half said their situation was worse than a year ago, and 60 per cent of children reported severe deprivation. Many of those parents taking part in the survey said they felt a sense of guilt for not being able to provide basic essentials for their children. About 2.5 million Australians are estimated to be living in poverty, with the Salvation Army labelling the findings of its Economic and Social Impact Survey deeply disturbing. "We are deeply alarmed at the findings of this survey," Salvation Army spokesman Major Bruce Harmer said. "Entrenched poverty and persistent disadvantage are complex social issues. Without sufficient financial investment from governments and the community to adequately fund support services, the situation for disadvantaged individuals is likely to remain unchanged or further deteriorate." The 2406 people who took part in the survey spent on average 59 per cent of their income on accommodation, leaving them with $17.86 a day to pay for food, utility bills, health care and clothing. Half couldn't afford up-to-date school books or out-of-school activities for their children. For childless couples on Newstart benefits, the situation was even worse, with each surviving on $9.57 a day after paying the rent. The report comes just days after analysis by the Canberra-based National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling found families with children on the lowest incomes would bear the brunt of cuts announced in the federal budget. NATSEM found the poorest 20 per cent of households with children will lose up to 7.1 per cent of their total disposable income over the next four years, after all budget measures are taken into account. Salvation Army ACT and southern NSW appeals director Major Gary Masters said Canberra staff were meeting people every day who were forced to choose between getting their cars serviced or feeding their children. "So that means they are driving potentially dangerous cars that they can't afford to register, placing them and others in greater danger," Major Masters said. "Canberra has an ability to paint a great picture, with its beautiful leafy boulevards, impressive buildings like Parliament House ... but it's a facade. The situation in Canberra is very bleak and it is getting worse." Climbing housing costs and utility bills were two of the factors contributing to the pressure on families and individuals, and the report found those being supported by the Salvation Army needed greater assistance with education and getting a job if they were to have any hope of improving their situation.