Domestic violence client numbers increasing in NSW, but services still haven’t received any extra funding

It’s official. Frontline domestic violence services supporting victims after a police incident in NSW are seeing an increase in client numbers, and yet they haven’t received a single dollar in extra funds to assist them in dealing with the influx of cases, nor to help them change the way they are delivering their services in the new COVID-19 environment.

Victims Services NSW statistics show a greater than 10 per cent increase in the number of domestic violence client referrals – 13,767 in total – being received by NSW Government’s Safer Pathway services state-wide in March 2020 when compared to the same time last year…

Women’s Safety NSW provided detailed information to the NSW Government three weeks ago on the significant outlays domestic violence services right across the state had made in changing the way they offer support to victim-survivors, many spending several thousands of dollars on laptops, mobile phones, lockable filing cabinets and information technology upgrades to keep confidential files secure whilst workers shifted to working from home…

Says Foster “Services have been left high and dry with deficits in their tight service budgets they can’t make up because the NSW Government hasn’t provided them with any support.”

Many frontline domestic violence services reported early on in the COVID-19 crisis that client numbers were already increasing and they were presenting with increasingly complex needs and less referral options for support. To deal with this increased workload pressure, Women’s Safety NSW obtained information from each of its members last week on their needs for additional staffing… As yet, however, no response from the Government has been received.

“It’s pretty demoralising”, says Foster “We’re coming off the back of a period where the sector has already been copping higher and higher client numbers without any funding increases for a number of years now, and massive gaps in the service system when it comes to providing the ongoing support women and children need post-crisis to escape and recover from violence. But at a time like this, with funding already announced which is supposed to go to the frontline where women and children need it most, we just can’t see the justification for the government stalling its distribution.”

Women’s Safety NSW have been meeting with the NSW Department for Communities and Justice weekly alongside other peak bodies and state-wide organisations to advise on the response effort to the domestic and family violence crisis during COVID-19. However, Foster notes with concern that the issues being raised are not being acted on fast enough…

“If we want to keep women and children and everybody as safe as possible right now, the NSW Government has to step up to the plate. Otherwise, I’m afraid it’s going to be too little too late, and the human cost will be immeasurable.”

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