St Vincent de Paul and the Salvation Army have experienced an increase in requests for food and financial assistance

Coronavirus causes uplift in calls for financial and food support from charities.
Coronavirus causes uplift in calls for financial and food support from charities.

Welfare organizations St Vincent de Paul and the Salvation Army have experienced a sharp increase in requests for food and financial assistance resulting from the social upheaval caused by COVID-19.

A St Vincent de Paul spokeswoman said elderly people living alone and those in poor health were particularly struggling.

Adding to the challenge of supporting these groups are new health regulations which limit how outreach workers can support those in need.

"Our volunteer members are now dropping off food parcels and other essentials at people's doors, rather than coming inside for visits," she said.

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"They are keeping in contact with socially isolated people over the phone.

"Some of our homelessness services have had to stop taking new referrals for now, to ensure that residents have enough space for social distancing."

Despite the roll out of an unprecedented federal government social welfare package, many newly unemployed people also needed assistance.

"The loss of employment has been a massive shock for a lot of people. They have found they haven't been able to get immediate assistance from Centrelink and need help urgently," the spokeswoman said.

"Some people are just recovering from the bushfires and now they have to deal with this. It can be a little hard to determine what is driving the need in some cases."

The Salvation Army said the financial impacts of COVID-19 were evolving rapidly and were affecting the community unevenly.

"You may have lost income or had it drop significantly. You may be navigating Centrelink for the first time," a spokesman said.

"Our financial services are closely tracking the immediate relief options available, and can advise on your plans for working, retirement and how to pay your rent/mortgage."

Vinnies and Salvos have either closed or are operating on reduced trading hours to protect staff and customers.

"Most Vinnies Shops across NSW have temporarily closed, but are still welcoming donations of quality clothing and items through the donation bins outside. These bins are being regularly emptied, so if they are full at the time of your visit, please try coming back later rather than dumping items on the street or footpath," the spokeswoman said.

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This story At the frontline of social upheaval - calls for food and financial help first appeared on The Canberra Times.