The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a surge of demand for front line domestic and family violence services, as the need for physical distancing and self isolation means women and children are at an increased risk.
All levels of government are being encouraged to listen to sector experts in order to effectively operate family and domestic violence services in the context of a pandemic.
The McGowan Government has enforced new laws to protect victims of family and domestic violence.
Women’s Legal Service WA chief executive Gillian Booth-Yudelman is grateful the government responded swiftly: “They were proactive and foresaw the tidal wave coming.”
On an average day the WLSWA might get around 30 calls regarding family and domestic violence. Recently “it went up to 68, and then went up to record of 80” as a result of the pandemic, Dr Booth-Yudelman said.
Dr Booth-Yudelman said more government money would help tremendously, as the WLSWA is looking to hire additional lawyers in order to respond to the volume of calls.
On May 11 the State Government released a plan to respond to family and domestic violence during the pandemic, making use of $3 million in targeted Commonwealth funding. The money will be directed to: supporting women experiencing violence to remain safe in their homes; to maintain visibility over high-risk perpetrators; to access emergency accommodation; and to provide specific support for children in emergency accommodation with their parent.
Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence Minister Simone McGurk said: “This additional funding will increase the supports that can be offered to those who need them, within a short period of time.”
Women’s Council for Domestic and Family Violence Services WA policy officer Kedy Kristal said: “Our biggest focus at the moment is that we need to advertise and get the message out there, but then we also need to make sure services are capable, and that’s where it starts to fall apart a little bit.
“We know refuges are at capacity, counselling services are at capacity and the State Government actually has to make a serious investment into the domestic violence sector to make sure everybody has the capacity to respond.”
Potentially, the nation will be faced with a social and economic crisis after COVID-19, where all of those pressures will add to the risk of increased family and domestic violence for women and children.
“There is always the need to have more funding into the domestic violence sector, and there is certainly a greater need now because the impact of COVID-19 is going to be with us for at least another couple of years,” Ms Kristal added.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.