Monday, 18 January 2021
A rise in child protection notifications during the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need for a stronger focus on mental health, family violence and housing and homelessness, according to the NSW Council of Social Service (NCOSS).
The concerning new data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows that child protection notifications fell during COVID-19 lockdowns and rose once they were lifted.
Worryingly, the post-lockdown rise was 9 per cent higher in NSW compared to the same period in 2019.
NCOSS CEO Joanna Quilty said the figures highlight why an urgent focus is needed to tackle disadvantage, particularly as vital supports like JobKeeper and JobSeeker are wound down.
“We know there is a link between child protection notifications, unemployment, financial hardship, and resulting increases in mental health, family violence, housing stress and homelessness,” Ms Quilty said.
“These damning figures must force action from our political leaders because there is a real concern that this will only get worse after economic supports are wound back in the coming months. And unfortunately, we know that it is the groups and locations in our communities already experiencing disadvantage who will bear the brunt”
According to modelling commissioned by NCOSS and other peaks, which models the impact of rising unemployment by June 2021 when JobKeeper has ceased and if JobSeeker returns to its previous rate:
- There will be 27,447 more children at risk of neglect across NSW, a 24.5 per cent rise due to increased unemployment and with some locations experiencing increases of over 40%.
- The number of 20-24 year olds in NSW experiencing high or very high mental distress will increase by up to 16.8 per cent.
- Higher unemployment alone will lead to rates of domestic violence increasing by up to 5.5 per cent in some regions of NSW, with COVID-19 lockdowns already having caused alarming spikes in reports to police.
- More than 9,000 more people in NSW will be homeless – a rise of 24.0 per cent in the homeless population. Some regions will see a 40.5 per cent increase in homelessness.
“Addressing disadvantage before it becomes entrenched will ensure that children, young people, families and communities can get the support they need. These startling figures from the AIHW are a warning of what’s to come if we don’t act now and invest adequately in a social services safety system that prevents crises.” Ms Quilty said.
“It will be less costly and will ensure that the long-term negative impacts of the economic crisis are minimised.”
For more information, go to www.ncoss.org.au
Media contact: Nick Trainor 0407 078 138