COVID-19: Charities helping people they've never helped before

HELP IS THERE: People who have never sought help from a charity before are now looking for support amid the virus crisis, job losses and fear. Photo: FILE
HELP IS THERE: People who have never sought help from a charity before are now looking for support amid the virus crisis, job losses and fear. Photo: FILE

REACHING out for help is something many people fear doing, but lately charities in the Central West have been seeing a whole lot of new faces.

This year started with a drought and bushfires before the worldwide coronavirus pandemic struck fear into many.

Salvation Army Orana Captain David Sutcliffe said there had been a real shift in who was accessing benefits.

"It was people who were on government support before, or people who were out of work or didn't have enough work," he said.

"It's more of a shift now to people who have lost their jobs or businesses that closed.

"A lot of people we're seeing have never accessed our services before or haven't accessed our services for a long time."

CHANGES: There's been a shift in the type of person seeking help, Salvation Army Orana Captain David Sutcliffe says. Photo: AMY McINTYRE

CHANGES: There's been a shift in the type of person seeking help, Salvation Army Orana Captain David Sutcliffe says. Photo: AMY McINTYRE

Hope Care Bathurst operations and welfare services manager Elliot Redwin said people on Newstart usually made up around 30 per cent of his clientele, but the virus crisis has changed that.

"The demographic has changed, it's shifted from people on Newstart and is now a lot of aged pensioners," he said.

"I think the recession was on the cards before COVID, I think COVID just accelerated that."

Lifeline Central West executive officer Stephanie Robinson said calls to the charity's crisis number have soared during the crisis.

People are reporting a sense of grief and loss as they struggle with job loss or uncertainty, reduced earnings, isolation amid lockdowns, and a fear of catching COVID-19.

"They've lost a sense of security and their whole world view has changed," she said.

GRIEF: People are feeling grief and loss amid the virus crisis, Lifeline Central West executive officer Stephanie Robinson said. Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK

GRIEF: People are feeling grief and loss amid the virus crisis, Lifeline Central West executive officer Stephanie Robinson said. Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK

"When we're impacted by things out of our control that has a big impact."

Cpt Sutcliffe said despite the new faces seeking help, overall there has been less demand due to extra government money that has become available.

He said flexibility with rental payments, the ability to defer mortgage repayments, JobKeeper and Job Seeker have all had a big impact.

"We're really concerned about what will happen when all the help has stopped," Cpt Sutcliffe said.

"In September or October we're expecting to see a large influx of demand on services.

"I predict things will change drastically when the government money stops, I know there there are businesses out there that may not be able to continue."

HELP ON HAND: Hope Care Bathurst operations and welfare services manager Elliot Redwin has helped deliver 150 tonnes of food through Food Rescue Central West to charities in the region since March. Photo: SAM BOLT

HELP ON HAND: Hope Care Bathurst operations and welfare services manager Elliot Redwin has helped deliver 150 tonnes of food through Food Rescue Central West to charities in the region since March. Photo: SAM BOLT

For those people with extra money right now, Cpt Sutcliffe encouraged them to pay off debts, move debt to no interest loans, save the money or engage with a Salvos financial counsellor.

Mr Redwin said while government supports were helping many people in the desired way, some were missing out.

Should you withdraw from your superannuation?

Now that the new financial year has commenced, people in financial hardship can withdraw $10,000 from their superannuation account, however Cpt Sutcliffe urged people to proceed with caution.

Already, more than one million people have already emptied their nest egg through the government's early access to superannuation.

"If you're thinking of taking the extra $10,000 out please talk to a financial counsellor first," he said.

Free financial counselling is available through The Salvation Army's Moneycare.

Need help?

Ms Robinson said thousands of people are calling Lifeline with a wide range of concerns including: finance, job security, relationships and resilience during the drought, bushfires and now coronavirus.

"One of our concerns is that the people who are really struggling aren't coming forward," she said.

"We having people call us for the first time which is a good thing, but also things must be pretty bad for people to be calling."

Nationally, the number of calls Lifeline is receiving has spiked from around 2200-2400 daily late last year, to 3200 a day.

"Don't leave it until it's too late and you're in a lot of psychological distress, pick up the phone and it'll help dramatically," she said.

For help in a crisis call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.

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This story We're helping people we've never helped before: Charities first appeared on Lithgow Mercury.