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Additional $1.1B relief package to help battling Aussies

More help will be given to millions of Australians battling the devastating impacts of coronavirus with a $1.1 billion package which boosts mental health services, domestic violence support, Medicare assistance for people at home and emergency food relief.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that more support will be rolling out immediately to deal with the secondary effects of the health and economic crisis caused by coronavirus.    

“As we battle coronavirus on both the health and economic fronts with significant support packages in place and more to come, I am very aware many Australians are understandably anxious, stressed and fearful about the impacts of coronavirus and what it brings,” Mr Scott Morrison said.

“We are focused on saving lives and saving livelihoods and this new support package will provide much-needed care and help to so many Australians facing hardship at no fault of their own.

“We will get through this crisis by staying together, by supporting each other and ensuring that no Australian, even though we have to be isolated, should have to go through this alone.”

Medicare support at home – whole of population telehealth 

Providing the opportunity to get health services at home is a key weapon in the fight against coronavirus while limiting unnecessary exposure of patients and health professionals to the virus, wherever treatment can be safely delivered by phone or videoconferencing.

To provide continued access to essential primary health services during the coronavirus pandemic, $669 million will be provided to expand Medicare-subsidised telehealth services for all Australians, with extra incentives to GPs and other health practitioners also delivered.

Domestic violence support 

An initial $150 million will be provided to support Australians experiencing domestic, family and sexual violence due to the fallout from coronavirus.

Google is seeing the highest magnitude of searches for domestic violence help that they have seen in the past five years with an increase of 75 per cent and some services are already reporting an increase in demand.

A new public communication campaign will roll out to support those experiencing domestic violence over this period and to ensure those affected know where they can seek help.

Minister Payne and Minister Ruston will convene a COAG Women’s Safety Council meeting on Monday to discuss with the states and territories how to best deliver this funding to support local responses to this issue.

Mental health support

An initial $74 million will be provided to support the mental health and wellbeing of all Australians.

The Government’s digital mental health portal, Head to Health (www.headtohealth.gov.au), will be a single source of authoritative information and guidance on how to maintain good mental health during the coronavirus pandemic and in self-isolation, how to support children and loved ones, and how to access further mental health services and care.

A new national communications campaign, delivered in conjunction with the National Mental Health Commission, will provide information about maintaining mental wellbeing, raise awareness of the signs of when you or a loved one needs to get additional assistance, and where to find further information, support and care. 

This will include:

  • $10 million to create a dedicated coronavirus wellbeing support line, delivered by Beyond Blue. An additional $5 million contribution from Medibank to Beyond Blue to support this vital initiative.
  • $14 million will bolster the capacity of mental health support providers including $5 million for Lifeline and $2 million for Kids Helpline. Health workers, who will be at the frontline of the pandemic, will get dedicated mental health support through digital platforms.
  • To ensure that older Australians in aged care are not socially isolated despite visiting restrictions, $10 million will be provided to the Community Visitors Scheme. The funding will mean extra staff to train volunteer visitors, who will connect with older people in aged care online and by phone, and assist older Australians keep in touch with the community and loved ones.
  • To help younger Australians stay on track in their education and training and prepare them for the workforce, $6.75 million will be provided to deliver the headspace digital work and study service and eheadspace.
  • For Indigenous Australians, whose elders and communities are particularly vulnerable to the impacts coronavirus, Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia will develop culturally appropriate mental health and wellbeing resources. These will be available and easily accessible across a range of platforms.
  • $28.3 million will be utilised to continue to deliver psychosocial support to Commonwealth community mental health clients for a further 12 months.

Relief services for vulnerable Australians

An additional $200 million will be provided to support charities and other community organisations which provide emergency and food relief as demand surges as a result of coronavirus.

Given the unprecedented nature of the situation, emergency relief services are being heavily relied upon and the Government believes this demand will increase.

The Community Support Package will provide flexible funding to boost support to services where demand is quickly increasing, including:

  • Emergency Relief which will help vulnerable Australians who need assistance with bills, food, clothing or petrol and increase and retain workforce capacity including volunteers.
  • Assistance for food relief organisations to source additional food and transport for emergency relief service providers, and rebuild workforce capacity.
  • Immediately scale-up services through the National Debt Helpline — which is often the first point of contact for people experiencing financial difficulties, and to support one-on-one tele-financial counselling.
  • Creating a short-form financial counselling course through Financial Counselling Australia to train new financial counsellors to boost the workforce, potentially providing hundreds of new jobs.
  • Expanding access to safe, affordable financial products through the No Interest Loan Scheme which provides an immediate financial relief alternative to other high-risk, high-interest products such as credit cards and payday loans.

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