News Articles and analysis

What household lockdown might mean for different kinds of households

The Victorian self-isolation rules have been put in place in the interests of public health and safety. We’re not in the business of second-guessing that.

But it’s worth remembering that every household is different, and these rules will hit some harder than others.

For ‘conventional’ nuclear-family households – parents who live together with their kids – there are definitely challenges (just google ‘home lockdown + divorce rates’), but at least the logistics are usually simple enough to follow.

These families are allowed to go outside together, allowed to congregate in groups of more than two. For these Victorians the challenges are likely to be about more family time, not less.

For other types of households the challenges are different, sometimes stickier, and in some cases Victorian households might need different kinds of support.

With that in mind, here are five questions to think about as we go forward with the self-isolation rules:

  1. What support is available for sole-parent households?
    When we talk about sole-parent households we’re overwhelmingly talking about those headed by single mothers. In Victoria this group comprises one in eight families – almost 200,000 households. And these households often rely on external family and friends for help with childcare and other daily needs. The Council of Single Mothers and their Children is worried about that support being cut off. What help will single mothers have to get through the lockdown?
     
  2. How should Victorians manage joint child custody?
    Many separated and divorced parents have custody agreements or family law orders that involve children being ferried between multiple households. This is particularly concerning for immune-deficient parents, since children can carry and pass on the virus. What measures are in place to assist these Victorian households?
     
  3. How will the lockdown affect households in culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities?
    Many CALD communities are tightknit, with support networks that extend beyond immediate households. This can have positive effects during the coronavirus crisis, with extended family and neighbours delivering food and supplies to vulnerable people. But being linguistically and sometimes physically isolated, these communities might also be particularly impacted by self-isolation. What support can these households and communities rely on?
     
  4. What about share houses?
    While even close families are sharing more personal space than ever before, residents in share houses are locked down in close quarters with housemates who might be virtual strangers, while being cut off from families and loved ones they don’t live with. This level of enforced cohabitation/isolation can cause anxiety and stress, particularly if a housemate is putting others at risk by not following the stay-at-home directions. What should people do if share-housing becomes a lockdown nightmare?
     
  5. What support is there for people living alone?
    While those with young children might enjoy the odd snarky meme about all the free time and hobbies that family-free people are assumed to be enjoying, people who live alone might actually be facing profound and unenviable social isolation. Welfare groups have reported a huge spike in the amount of calls they’re receiving to helplines and online chat services. Are policies around the lockdown measures taking account of the serious mental health issues caused by social isolation and loneliness for those who live alone?

We don’t raise these questions to advocate for changes to the self-isolation rules; but we do advocate for policies and programs that take into account the different circumstances of different households.

This might mean assistance aimed at single parents, education programs to lessen the digital divide for CALD communities, or extra mental health resources targeted to young people living out of home.

Because we need to make sure that no Victorians feel invisible or forgotten in lockdown.