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Vinnies services in high demand after COVID supports end

Vinnies WA has recorded a significant increase in the number of families seeking help.

Recent data shows that while Vinnies supported 1,458 families through its Emergency Assistance and Support program in the month of January, that number rose to 2,287 in September.

The new figures, collated by Vinnies on the eve of Anti-Poverty Week (17-23 October), suggest that the winding back of Federal and State Government support measures are having a significant impact on families trying to stay afloat.

While factors such as tax refunds can cause the numbers of families seeking help to drop at various points throughout the year, the new data suggests more and more people are reaching out for help, with the number of calls to Vinnies also on the rise.

Federal Government support payments Jobkeeper and the Jobseeker COVID-19 supplement ended in late March, the same time that the State Government’s moratorium on rental evictions ended. The State Government’s freeze on household fees and charges and the moratorium on electricity disconnections ended in late June.

According to Vinnies’ data, the most impacted areas in Perth were Armadale, Midland, Joondalup and Rockingham, while in the regions Mandurah and Geraldton were particularly affected.

Families struggled to pay their water and power bills as well as increases in rent of up to $100 per week. With little money left for other expenses, Vinnies helps families with food, utilities, accommodation support and vehicle costs.

According to the WA Council of Social Services, there are over 17,300 WA households – around 39,000 people – on the social housing waiting list and 50 per cent of low income households in Western Australia are experiencing rental stress.

Andrew York, Executive Manager of Community Engagement Services at Vinnies WA, said the situation was concerning.

“We expected that the numbers of people seeking emergency assistance and support would go up with the end of the rental moratorium and end of the freeze on household fees and charges, and now we’re seeing it play out,” he said.

“The figures lay bare the fact that we’ve still got a long way to go in dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Federal Government payments and the State Government moratoriums on rental evictions and the freeze on household fees and charges were welcome measures to help people, but once those supports ended, it became clear that many families were living pay cheque to pay cheque and just couldn’t absorb the increasing costs of living, particularly the housing costs.

“Vinnies provides emergency assistance to help people escape poverty, but we know that for every family we help, there are others that aren’t reaching out for support in time,” Mr York said.

Mr York added that Vinnies’ volunteer emergency assistance and support teams across the State, known as Conferences, have requested increases to their budgets to meet the rising demand.