ER Officer Sarah works with new clients to help them work through their budget and find the right support.
The world has changed dramatically. Lifestyles have been altered as people stay home to protect the community from COVID-19. Businesses and community services have had to adapt to this new normal, whilst thousands of Tasmanians have lost their jobs with no guarantee of what the future will hold.
Thanks to the support of kind donors, the Emergency Relief program offers help to some of Southern Tasmania’s most vulnerable people.
Emergency Relief is given in the form of food packs to anyone who needs it.
Emergency Relief appointments are also available to assess a person’s situation and help them with food vouchers, assistance in paying outstanding bills, and a better understanding of how to budget. Government funding pays for a portion of Emergency Relief services. However, when the funding runs out it is big-hearted donors like you that allow this service to continue. Approximately 50% of this program is funded by people just like you.
Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we have been able to expand this assistance to new areas, including Oatlands, Huonville and Sorell, to help people through COVID-19.
With your continued support, people doing it tough in our community have food to eat and help when they need it most.
We caught up with Emergency Relief Officer, Sarah, to discuss how donors help to change the lives of people doing it tough in our community.
• What does a typical day look like in your role as an Emergency Relief Officer?
Our phones start ringing as soon as the clock strikes 8:30am. We book our appointments for the following day, and clients have a 45-minute session each. In these appointments we assess a person’s emergency needs and how we can help them to overcome financial difficulty.
I do eight to nine face-to-face appointments a day with clients, where we discuss their situation and explore how we can support them. We also connect them with other services that can help beyond our specific programs. This includes negotiating realistic payment plans, NILS loans (which stands for No Interest Loan Scheme for major ticket items such as car repairs or electricity bills which sky rocket during the cold Hobart winter), locating Community Housing with useful programs and food co-ops, or making referrals to other organisations including the Safe Space program for emergency accommodation.
• How does Emergency Relief help people in our community?
These clients are generally low-income earners dependent on Centrelink, awaiting payments, or just in an unforeseen financial crisis. Many of these people have found themselves in these situations due to the loss of employment through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Without the basic pantry items, toiletries, fuel and supermarket vouchers that we are able to provide, our clients will be missing out on meals and basic utilities. The Emergency Relief Program is keeping many people “afloat” while we work on strategies to budget during these crises and work towards greater self-determination.
• What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I could keep a running tally for every time a client apologises, saying they feel they “shouldn’t be here as someone else is doing it tougher”. I think this speaks to the generous nature of the Tasmanian community.
Many people struggle to ask for help and it’s our nature to prioritise others. The reality is so many people are doing it tough right now and I am a firm believer that every community has a basic obligation to care for our most vulnerable, and to do so with dignity and respect.
• What are the difficulties faced when providing Emergency Assistance?
The very real limitations of our resources and scope.
It is difficult to take on the role of case manager for every client in just 45 minutes, so that can feel very challenging. As part of my role I consistently try to find creative ways to help people stretch their limited resources.
At the moment basic resource management for Emergency Relief is incredibly challenging. Our spending on food alone is increasing which means we have to buy large volumes of groceries.
Another difficulty is that there are only enough funds for a certain number of Emergency Relief appointments per day.
Daily life is a legitimate financial struggle for too many people and we need to provide more support as a result.
• How do donors impact on the Emergency Relief Program?
Donors are an absolutely integral part of the program, whether they donate through tax-deductible cash donations or donations-in-kind of food, toiletries, new bedding, or items to sell in our Op Shops.
As a frontline worker I see the difference that these donations make, whether they be food parcels or Op Shop items that help someone with clothing or furniture to establish a new home. Then there’s the huge impact of larger donations which enable the organisation to continue its work in a way that’s flexible and adaptable to the community’s needs.
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