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NCOSS has welcomed the NSW Government’s latest stimulus package in response to COVID-19 but warned that frontline services need resources to respond to increased demand and support in moving away from face-to-face service delivery.

As part of the State Government’s second stimulus package, $34 million is being invested to prevent homelessness and $30 million to boost the Energy Accounts Payment Assistance scheme.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in 2018/19 homelessness services in NSW provided accommodation to 18,000 people, while a further 21,500 people were turned away. 

NCOSS CEO Joanna Quilty said the new package is welcome, but the Government needed to ensure that service providers are not impacted by increased administrative work and technological demands.

“Increasing resources to tackle homelessness is very welcome and will support some of the most vulnerable people in the community,” Ms Quilty said.

“Being able to rapidly house those living in inadequate, unsafe circumstances is vital to ensuring their health and wellbeing as the virus continues to spread.

“Further resources to organisations like Foodbank and Lifeline makes complete sense given their central roles in responding to the crisis and supporting people who are really struggling.

“And boosting the Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) scheme is also a welcome move as more households experience financial hardship and struggle to pay their bills. 

“But we need to ensure that this does not create more administration and complexity for an already stretched social services sector. The EAPA scheme is delivered by a range of different providers across the state who don’t get paid to do this. Many rely on volunteers.

“Now that face-to-face assessments are no longer possible, there is the added requirement of using technology to administer the scheme. The worry is that some clients may be locked out, and that volunteers will find it too difficult to administer.”

Ms Quilty said this was one of the reasons NCOSS is calling for the NSW Government to implement a Resilient Communities - Support and Connect Fund.

“A Resilient Communities - Support and Connect Fund would support service providers on the ground to meet increasing demand, expand their offerings, purchase technology and support their staff and volunteers to deliver programs online and in ways other than face-to-face,” she said.

“The injection of additional funding into the sector will enable jobs to be created and services to be delivered to a growing number of vulnerable people.”

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Media contact: Nick Trainor 0407 078 138