Wesley Mission’s workers in Western and South West Sydney are reporting increased concerns for the health and wellbeing of the community as lockdown continues. The charity’s 1,148 staff in the region are receiving more calls from people experiencing food insecurity, financial difficulties and increased levels of distress.
Almost 20 per cent of Wesley Mission’s programs are delivered directly to Western and South West Sydney. Last year this included support for more than 30,000 people.
Wesley Mission CEO, Rev Stu Cameron, notes that workers see a concerning trend.
“At the beginning of lockdown, we received additional requests for help, mainly from our existing vulnerable clients. But in the last month, we’re increasingly hearing from people who have never needed any charitable support before,” says Mr Cameron.
In mid-July, the Morrison Government announced an additional $8.9 million for emergency and food relief to go to Commonwealth declared hotspots in NSW and VIC. It gave Emergency Relief providers like Wesley Mission a greater ability to respond to increased demand.
“It won’t be long now until the $220,000 in top-up funds we received runs out,” says Mr Cameron.
“Every day, we’re hearing from parents who are going without food so their kids can eat. As lockdown drags on and savings run out, more people are experiencing crisis.
“We can’t let families go hungry. It has been really cold this last week, and I know people will be saddened to think of older people shivering because they can’t pay for heating.”
Since lockdown began, 20 per cent more requests for relief have been processed than in the same period last year. Adding to this, Wesley Mission’s team of Financial Counsellors processed 76 per cent more Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) vouchers for people in short-term crisis as this time last year.
“People have started to receive their winter electricity bills, and we’re hearing that they’re much more expensive than usual because everyone’s been at home,” says Mr Cameron.
“When you’re already under stress, receiving a bill like that can leave you feeling desperate about how to make ends meet.
“Recent research is showing that more people are experiencing psychological distress, and our Lifeline Sydney and Sutherland volunteer crisis supporters are hearing from thousands of callers with COVID related concerns.”
Wesley Mission wants to reinforce that help is available and invites fellow Sydneysiders and compassionate Australians to join in an urgent response.
“No one should struggle alone. We are on the ground, ready to help,” says Mr Cameron.
“We’ve had people reach out and ask how they can contribute, and we’ve got some easy ways for people to make an immediate difference.
“If you’re able to, please consider making a donation through our website that will help put food on the table and keep the power on for people who are doing it really tough.
“Australians show up when their neighbours are in trouble. COVID-19 can make us all feel powerless, but there are things we can do.”
Be part of the response at wesleymission.org.au