Domestic violence support available during COVID-19
A STATE government support package for family and sexual violence support services has been welcomed by the CEO of Whitsunday Counselling and Support who said the region would likely see an increase domestic violence as a flow on effect of the pandemic.
The State Government today announced $5.5 million in funding to help manage an anticipated increase in demand for domestic and family violence support services arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding included $1.5 million to boost the capacity of the 24/7 statewide crisis service DVConnect and $1.7 million to address crisis accommodation needs.
Specialist domestic, family and sexual violence services will also receive $1.8 million to help them meet anticipated demand while $500,000 has been allocated to support a new awareness campaign.
Acting CEO at Whitsunday Counselling and Support Ron Petterson applauded the government's assistance to support services.
While it is not yet clear whether Whitsunday Counselling and Support will receive funds, Mr Petterson said his team were prepared to see an increase in domestic violence cases because of coronavirus social distancing measures.
"We are fully aware that we will most likely see a demand increase over the coming months, particularly when school returns and there's more pressure on families," he said.
"This is not that dissimilar to what we saw post-Debbie. When we saw Cyclone Debbie come through, we saw an increase in domestic violence numbers as well and it comes down to the whole situation of people being in the home with no outlet for getting out of the house.
"With the stresses of being at home with no income, no work, and no outlet to get out of the home, we do see family stress levels rise up.
"Certainly we saw a rise in domestic violence cases post Debbie … and there's the full expectation sadly that we will see that rise again."
However, Mr Petterson assured residents that Whitsunday Counselling and Support were still providing services to help those in need.
"We had concerns with all the publicity about everything being closed and staying home that people (may not have) understood that our services are still there.
"We are here and if you need us, definitely get in touch with us."
Whitsunday Counselling and Support are still seeing people for face-to-face appointments when needed but have also expanded their services online.
It was also announced today that a new domestic and family violence reporting tool was available via the Queensland Police website, which Mr Petterson said would work with alternative support avenues that Whitsunday Counselling and Support have introduced.
"Because you've got the entire family in the home all the time, it makes it very difficult for some women to reach out," he said.
"What we don't want is for people to feel trapped, and they don't need to because there are other avenues that are being opened up for people.
"We've increased the ways that we are engaging with members of the community. We are trying to encourage people to use our phone service, we're doing a Skype service, we can do zoom, we can do FaceTime, we can do all those different avenues as well as online through our Facebook."
Whitsunday Counselling and Support can be phoned on 4946 2999.
DVConnect, the 24 hour Domestic Violence Helpline, can be phoned on 1800 811 811.