Pressure builds on charities as COVID support ends

Foodbank chief executive Greg Hebble is asking people to give generously this weekend. Photo: Sean Van Der Wielen.

Western Australians are being asked by community welfare agencies to be compassionate as three major COVID-19 support programs come to an end.

The federal government’s JobKeeper subsidy and the state government’s rental eviction memorandum both finish on Sunday, while the bonus JobSeeker payments end on Wednesday.

The sector is bracing for the worst with many already experiencing a surge in demand.

Western Australian Council of Social Service chief executive Loise Giolitto says tenancy advice services are seeing the number of people seeking their support quadruple.

“We are hearing from a number of our members an absolute fear of what’s going to happen at the end of the rental moratorium,” she says.

“There’s an extremely high likelihood people’s rents are going to go up…which will result in more people seeking help and support just to get by.”  

Foodbank’s Perth Airport depot is experiencing a 30 percent upsurge in demand compared to this time last year, with the organisation already proving the equivalent of 280,000 meals this month.

Foodbank WA chief executive Greg Hebble says he is expecting a 10 to 15 percent increase in additional demand once the COVID-19 support measures are removed at the end of this month.

“Given where we are in March, we haven’t stopped the demand, we are about to stop all those things in April. We’re worried.”

Federal treasury secretary Steven Kennedy admitted yesterday in Senate Estimates up to 150,000 people were expected to lose their jobs once the JobKeeper payments were axed, though he conceded this prediction was uncertain.

While the flow-on effects from the end of the rental memorandum and the reduction of JobSeeker payments are less certain, it is likely to hit young people the hardest with the unemployment rate for 15 to 24-year-olds still four percent below pre-pandemic levels.

To keep up with the expected surge in demand, Foodbank is running a Donation Drive-Thru service this Saturday at four locations across the state.

The public will be able to donate non-perishable items between 1pm and 4pm at Foodbank’s Perth Airport depot. The organisation’s Bunbury, Geraldton and Kalgoorlie depots will be open between 9am and midday.

The donations this weekend will help keep Foodbank’s depots full. Photo: Sean Van Der Wielen.

At the same time, WACOSS is urging investment property owners to be thoughtful about rental increases.

“Especially if there are children and families in the home. What would the result be if you hiked the rent by 20 or 30 percent?” Ms Giolitto says.

“Is that going to result in someone being evicted and somebody ending up on the streets?”