Crisis not over for service providers

Relationships Australia NSW (RANSW) is calling for more financial help from the government for counselling services on the Central Coast and throughout the state which it says are “at crisis point”.

RANSW CEO, Elisabeth Shaw, said the not-for-profit organisation, which has an office in Gosford, has seen a staggering increase in demand for counselling services since the pandemic began.

“People across the Central Coast are crying out for help as the combination of lockdowns, financial pressures and close confinement with partners has created extremely stressful situations,” she said.

“It’s important that people are reaching out for help; but not being able to provide the support they need once they’ve asked is a real problem.”

Shaw said in the past three years RABSW had seen a 2,200 per cent increase in clients on its waitlists for counselling services.

“Our counselling services are at a crisis point and we are asking for help,” she said.

“Despite this increase in demand, there has been no corresponding increase in funding for our services, beyond some emergency support in some quarters.

“People enrol in a counselling service because they are at breaking point.

“Waiting months to see someone is unacceptable and can have a devastating effect on the person and their family.”

Shaw said that based on client caseload and waitlist data at its current trajectory, without extra funding, by June 2022, the average waitlist will increase from 503 to 2,147 people, waiting 66 days for their first session.

“Our counsellors have reported that the most commonly presented issues are violence, coercive control, and increased relationship pressures – all linked to the pandemic and its impacts,” she said.

“My fear is we don’t have the full picture yet.

“The impacts of the pandemic are not fully realised and there are a lot of people in trouble out there.

“Relationships Australia NSW is one of the biggest providers of counselling services, but we’re not the only one, and I know we’re not alone in experiencing this issue.

“Many people in the government, private sector and not-for-profit sectors are talking the talk about mental health and relationships now – probably more than ever.

“Now it’s time for the NSW and Federal Governments to talk with their purse strings.

“The helpers need help.”

Terry Collins

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