Agencies gear up to support families in crisis
A distressing trifecta of mental health issues, domestic violence and child abuse will confront Catholic welfare agencies in the fallout from the coronavirus.
Marymead Child and Family Services is seeking increased federal government funding to meet an expected spike in demand from families in crisis.
“Our biggest concern is the impact social isolation will have on vulnerable families,” Marymead CEO Camilla Rowland said.
“Families will go from being at-risk to more critical and the numbers will grow. We know the numbers will grow, with mental health issues, domestic violence and child abuse.
“We haven’t had growth funding for our family relationships counselling services but this pandemic will see an increased need for months, if not years.
“We anticipate a big increase in referrals and demand and are gearing up for that.”
The Kids Helpline free counselling service has reported a 40 per cent increase in children seeking support while Parentline has experienced 30 per cent more demand.
Camilla said domestic violence services were reporting a huge increase in women escaping violent homes which indicates child abuse is prevalent.
“Child abuse is very hard to detect,” Camilla said.
“If you are doing online and phone counselling it is hard to detect how a family is functioning.
“You may be talking to a child but have a parent in the background and you don’t know what is really going on.
“Children have limited attention spans on phones and computers and it is more difficult to identify when a situation is moving from tense to abuse.”
Marymead recently reinstated its face-to-face program of supervised contact services for separated families, where parents or carers meet up with their children in a supervised setting.
“At the beginning the directions were that all face-to-face contact should cease but fortunately the NSW and ACT governments have relaxed the rules for these very vulnerable families,” Camilla said.
“Without these supervised visits the pressure builds on parents and families and makes it very difficult for them to function well.
“It has been a moving feast trying to keep up with the different directions from the NSW and ACT governments often for the same groups of clients.”
Social distancing rules have forced Marymead to reduce its short-term accommodation and respite for children with disabilities.
“We are restricting accommodation to four to five children,” Camilla said.
“A number of families rely on regular short-term accommodation and my concern is we cannot give them the support they need.”
- Marymead – 02 6162 5800
- Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800
- Parentline ACT – 02 6287 3833