An ‘economic tsunami’ is headed to NSW, NCOSS says, warning of child neglect spike

by Freya Lucas

October 23, 2020

COVID-19 has “set in motion an economic tsunami” that will exacerbate mental health distress, domestic violence, homelessness and child neglect across NSW, the New South Wales Council of Social Service (NCOSS) has said, commenting on a new report from Equity Economics, A wave of disadvantage across NSW: Impact of the COVID-19 recession.

 

The report was commissioned by NSW peak social services bodies, and examines five areas impacted by disadvantage: housing, domestic violence, child protection, mental health, and education.

 

Modelling the impact of rising unemployment by June 2021 when JobKeeper has ceased, and assuming JobSeeker returns to its previous rate, the report looks at how this will affect progress with key targets set out in the NSW Premier’s Priorities. Findings include:

 

  • There will be 27,447 more children at risk of neglect across NSW, a 24.5 per cent rise due to increased unemployment.

 

  • The five areas with the highest levels of unemployment by June 2021 are predicted to include Newcastle and Lake Macquarie (12.3 per cent), Coffs Harbour – Grafton (12.2 per cent), Sydney – City and Inner South (11 per cent) and Sydney – Parramatta and Sydney – Blacktown (10.6 per cent).

 

  • Higher unemployment alone will lead to rates of domestic violence increasing by up to 5.5 per cent in some regions of NSW, with COVID-19 lockdowns already having caused alarming spikes in reports to police.

 

  • More than 9,000 more people in NSW will be homeless – a rise of 24.0 per cent in the homeless population. Some regions will see a 40.5 per cent increase in homelessness.

 

  • The number of NSW families experiencing housing stress will increase by more than 88,000 or 24.3 per cent.

 

The report also examines how the community sector in NSW is responding to the increase in demand for services, finding the need for critical intervention increasing significantly.

 

Joanna Quilty, NCOSS CEO, said the report provides a stark warning to the NSW Government of what can occur without intervention to stem rising disadvantage, strengthen the community services sector, and lift the productive capacity of the NSW economy.

 

“The Premier’s Priorities are aimed at breaking the cycle of disadvantage. But the modelling shows that rising unemployment threatens to undermine progress to date and send us backwards unless action is taken. Those in our state who were already vulnerable will be most hurt, while others will face precarious circumstances for the first time. Urgent intervention is required,” Ms Quilty said.

 

She emphasised the importance of addressing disadvantage before it becomes entrenched to ensure that children, young people, families and communities can get the support they need to get through the current recession. 

 

So doing, she said, will be less costly and will ensure that the long-term negative impacts of the economic crisis are minimised.

 

Interim CEO of Domestic Violence NSW, Delia Donovan said the report “clearly highlights the drastic implications of a COVID-19 on families all across NSW.” 

 

Addressing rising rates of domestic violence through investing into early intervention and adequate resourcing, she said, is fundamental.

 

“The impact and consequences cannot be ignored – lives will be lost unless urgent action is taken. We need to act now.”

 

To access the report, visit here.

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