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Charities warn against pandemic payments windback

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Charities fear they will become “ambulances at the bottom of the cliff” if coronavirus payments are cut off too soon.

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The sector has seen a massive spike in demand during the pandemic, which followed the devastating summer bushfire crisis.

Demand at Foodbank Australia has spiked by 78 per cent in recent months.

“We have a very real concern that we are not yet at the peak of food relief demand,” chief executive Brianna Casey told a parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday.

Casey said panic buying had severely impacted Foodbank’s ability to feed vulnerable Australians.

She is also concerned about what will happen when the JobKeeper and JobSeeker supports end in September.

Her concerns were echoed by UnitingCare Australia, St Vincent de Paul and the Australian Red Cross.

“We don’t want to be the fleet of ambulances waiting at the bottom of that cliff,” UnitingCare national director Claerwen Little told the inquiry.

“We want to be part of the team of construction workers building a fence at the top.”

Vinnies has seen reduced demand during the pandemic.

Chief executive Toby O’Connor puts it down to social restrictions, people’s fears about catching coronavirus, and temporarily increased welfare payments.

He wants JobSeeker unemployment benefits permanently lifted and has called on the federal government to develop a national social housing strategy.

A recent report found the coronavirus pandemic could force about one in six Australian charities to shut their doors within six months, leaving many vulnerable people without vital services.

The pandemic could also see 200,000 jobs go as the $155 billion sector cuts costs and charities close.

In April, the Morrison government announced an immediate $100 million funding injection for more than 300 charities and community organisations.

Families and Social Services Minister Anne Ruston said at the time a further $100 million would be allocated over the next six months where needed.

-AAP

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