Emergency relief in the Coronavirus crisis COVID-19 Issues Alerts

Emergency relief in the Coronavirus crisis


Victoria, along with the rest of the world, is currently in a state of emergency.

The medical emergency of Covid-19, and the economic emergency it has led to, is testing and stretching us in ways most of us have never experienced.

But for others in our community a state of emergency has been the daily reality long before this.

Not having enough food to eat, or a safe place to sleep, or treatment for severe mental illness. Unfortunately these are all familiar states of emergency for many Victorians. Food insecurity alone has affected almost 1.8 million adults in Victoria every year. 

And that’s before the current health and economic crises, which are driving so many more people into extreme need.

Emergency relief agencies are somewhere people can go when they have no other options. Often run on the smell of an oily rag, they operate with a combination of government funding, private donations and income from sources like op shops.

In the current situation, with more demand for their services than ever before, they face a whole new raft of challenges just to stay operational.

Here are six things to consider, to help emergency relief agencies keep helping Victorians through the crisis.



1. Previous forms of revenue and support have been lost.

Many emergency relief agencies rely on revenue generated through op shops, most of which have now closed. What will fill the gap?



2. Much of the emergency relief workforce has also been lost.

The emergency relief workforce is vulnerable at the best of times, largely relying on volunteers. Most volunteers have had to be stood down because of health and safety concerns, and many agencies are redeploying paid staff into volunteer positions. This dominoeing of staff is unsustainable if organisations are to keep providing services.



3. Safety is a constant issue. 

Arranging pickups and deliveries is difficult during the Covid-19 crisis, as is keeping things like soup vans open. Agencies are struggling and need support to keep their services going while keeping their staff safe.



4. Vulnerable people are relying on a precarious supply chain.

Emergency relief providers have reported problems getting enough supply of groceries, at a time when there is a great increase in demand for food relief. How can the supply chain be shored up?




5. Extra demand is adding to the pressure.

New clients are appearing, most of whom have lost their jobs due to Coronavirus. In particular there is acute need amongst asylum seeker communities and migrants on temporary visas, who have no financial support through JobKeeper or other benefits.


6. Other organisations are struggling with the overflow.

Different organisations, such as Neighbourhood Houses, are trying to pick up the slack and meet new demand generated by COVID-19, but with little or no additional funding.


Emergency relief is an absolutely vital part of the social fabric of Victoria, helping people in their worst times.

Emergency relief organisations need comprehensive and coordinated government support to keep functioning through the challenges of the Covid-19 crisis.

Otherwise many Victorians will face a new level of emergency.


  • To arrange an interview with VCOSS CEO Emma King contact Ryan Sheales on 0418 127 153 or via email.
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