Return to work help welcome but housing is key issue for those fleeing domestic violence

Image; Family & Community Services, Women NSW

Community organisations who help women escaping abusive relationships to live in refuges have welcomed a recent announcement that these women will be offered grants of up to $5,000 to help them re-enter the workforce.

The money can be used to buy equipment or pay for education and training, transport, childcare and other associated costs.

CatholicCare is currently the largest Domestic and Family Violence Service on the Central Coast, supporting up to 150 high-risk families at any one time through the Integrated Domestic and Family Violence Service (IDFVS).

CatholicCare’s Domestic Violence Specialist, Danielle Habib, said the funding would “go a long way in not only skill building for these women but aid in supporting them to take back control of their lives.

“We are very pleased to see the government offering up to $5,000 to unemployed women who have left domestic and family violence to support them to re-enter the workforce,” Habib said.

 “This funding is not just for education fees, laptops and office equipment but extends to supporting survivors in receiving driving lessons and childcare fees.

“We see so many women prevented from obtaining their car licence as a way for the preparator to maintain control of the survivor.

“This is a particular barrier for many women in gaining employment as this prevents them from dropping their children to before/after school care and then get to work on time.”

However, Habib said the focus should be placed on safe housing, before employment.

“Unfortunately, approximately 75 per cent of families we work with are awaiting a space in a refuge and are in temporary accommodation or staying with friends or family in overcrowded homes,” Habib said.

“The continuing major issue for survivors of Domestic and Family Violence on the Central Coast is safe and stable long-term accommodation.

“This is needed before women can even look at engaging in education or a stable job.”

Eligible women will be supported by Service NSW Return to Work Coordinators to develop a Return to Work Plan which sets out the resources that will assist them getting back in the workforce.

Eligible applicants will be able to register interest until February 21, with Service NSW set to accept applications from women on the registration list from February 22 to May 2.

Coast Shelter CEO, Michael Starr, said the program would be a great support for women escaping domestic and family violence on the Coast.

“Too many times we see women stay in very unsafe situations for themselves and their children because they are unable to secure suitable housing or afford to pay a rental bond, pay removalists or be able to repair or register a car,” Starr said.

“Most women who engage with Coast Shelter’s refuge services have little or no money and no access to bank accounts as the perpetrator exerts total coercive control of the finances, ultimately limiting the options for women to move forward into safe and secure accommodation.

“In 2021 Coast Shelter participated in a similar initiative with immediate financial support with things like rental bonds, car registrations and household items for 24 women escaping domestic violence.

“We know first-hand that without investments in programs like this many women will feel trapped and remain in traumatic, unsafe situations for a lot longer.”

Minister for Women, Bronnie Taylor, said the second phase of the NSW Government’s $10M Return to Work Program will help more than 740 victim-survivors of domestic violence across NSW to return to work.

“This program is about empowering these courageous victim-survivors of domestic violence to enter or re-enter the workforce by providing them with the financial support to secure a job, regain independence and feel optimistic about what their new future holds,” Taylor said.

“We know that some victim-survivors of domestic violence are financially controlled and do not have access to funds. These grants will remove key financial barriers to getting a new job, helping alleviate some of the financial pressures of starting again and providing hope for those in a sometimes hopeless situation.”

Further information about the RTW Program is available by emailing

Maisy Rae