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Paul Ramsay Foundation supports fight against family violence during pandemic

Health Industry Hub | July 21, 2021 |
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The Paul Ramsay Foundation has released a report on the impacts of emergency ‘surge funding’ it provided to 33 women’s shelters across Australia in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The surge funds provided by the Paul Ramsay Foundation primarily supported the shelters’ crisis response and recovery programs which were constrained and often required modification in response to the increase in demand during the pandemic (for example the capacity of shared accommodation and use of outside accommodation to meet needs). 

The funding was deliberately targeted to smaller not-for-profit organisations, in particular women-run, community-embedded and trauma-informed shelters that focused on women and children.  

For women and children facing domestic and family violence, the pandemic has presented another barrier to seeking help, another layer of control to be used by perpetrators and further strain on service providers – particularly women’s shelters.  

Women’s shelters provide essential emergency services to vulnerable women and children who would otherwise be trapped in abusive households or homeless. Shelters provide immediate accommodation in a crisis, however they also provide additional supports including medium term accommodation, counselling and psychological services, financial support and specialist children’s services.  

This project provided an opportunity for the Paul Ramsay Foundation to engage with the sector at a time of great strain to learn from the people at the coal face about the challenges they face in undertaking the important work they do for our community.  

Of the 33 shelters, more than 65 per cent used at least part of the funding for accommodation upgrades or purchasing accommodation-related goods, reinforcing that elements of existing accommodation are often unsuitable for the specific needs of children and women leaving domestic and family violence.  

In some cases, the surge funds were used to fill gaps where there had been a withdrawal by a previous funder, or for capital works to meet new COVID-19 requirements. 

Participating shelters shared insights of their experience in a survey so the Paul Ramsay Foundation could better understand the learning and implications from the rise in domestic and family violence during COVID-19. Representatives from the shelters highlighted four key points: 

  1. Not only is there an ongoing housing need per se, but the current housing stock is also inadequate right now. Many shelters have access to older properties in desperate need of upgrade and/or motels which are also unsuitable. 
  2. Increasing homelessness is now a major issue facing shelters. We heard many women and children were sleeping in cars or in overcrowded conditions, due to lack of access to beds. Participants spoke in detail to the severe shortage of affordable/community housing which had worsened during the pandemic.  
  3. There is concern regarding the complicated ‘entry’ and ‘exit’ points for women and children accessing these services. Women are recorded at ‘entry’ if they receive any kind of support – even something as small as food vouchers – but the whole experience does not meet their underlying need and there aren’t enough realistic ‘exit’ options. 
  4. Many participants remarked on the absence of a national peak body and the concomitant lack of a united political voice for the sector. They discussed the need to move from state-based voices to a more unified, independent and respected professional voice which could advocate on their behalf at a national level.  

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