St Vinnies braces for delayed COVID crisis in 2021
A LOCAL charity organisation is bracing for an upsurge in people looking for assistance next year as the impact of the Federal Government’s COVID-19 stimulus wears off.
While the Clarence Valley saw a decline in people requesting assistance from St Vincent de Paul Society during the height of the pandemic, 2021 could be a different story.
St Vinnies Yamba conference president Terry Carlin said earlier this year saw a decrease in requests for assistance, with government stimulus packages and programs such as JobSeeker and JobKeeper making the difficult period more manageable for many vulnerable people in the community.
However, with these programs expected to be phased out by March next year, Mr Carlin said the organisation was ready for an influx of people asking for help, and feared the stimulus only managed to delay the inevitable.
“The stimulus packages may have solved an immediate problem, but it didn’t fix the long term problem,” he said.
“We were somewhat surprised with the COVID response. We found that up here it didn’t really impact us as much. We found very few people on JobKeeper came to see us, I can’t recall more than a handful of people.
“We had been geared for an increase in people needing help so we were somewhat surprised with the drop in demand, but in the past month or two we’re starting to see an increase as stimulus programs get rolled back, which is cause for concern.”
Mr Carlin said the increase in the number of people needing help in the Clarence Valley is expected to rise even further in the coming months.
“We’re expecting quite an influx next year once these stimulus packages have ended, and we’re geared for it. We are prepared for an upsurge in people needing help.
“The increased welfare payments are only helpful if something is done on a more permanent basis. To assist those on JobSeeker the payments need to be increased on a permanent basis, otherwise we will be back to where we started.
“People on JobSeeker, disability support payments and parenting payments are still going to be up against the same struggles and we’ll continue to be there to help.”
Mr Carlin said between September and November this year the St Vinnies Grafton office assisted around 100 people, and when including associated family members were able to help more than 300 people, which has been a decrease in previous years.
St Vincent de Paul Society NSW CEO Jack de Groot said between COVID-19, the government’s decision to wind back income support payments, unprecedented job losses and economic recession, thousands of households, including those impacted by the pandemic, are unsure how they’ll be able to keep the lights on.
A recent report from The Australia Institute suggests the government’s decision to wind back the JobSeeker support payment just days after Christmas will push an additional 51,000 people in NSW into poverty.
“Before the pandemic we already had too many people struggling due to the inadequate rate of JobSeeker,” Mr de Groot said.
“The government is cutting income support just days after Christmas and failing to implement a long-term solution that allows people to live with dignity.”