VINNIES in Queensland are gearing up for a “wave” of people needing support in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The St Vincent de Paul Society’s Queensland chief executive officer Kevin Mercer said there had not been a significant increase in volumes of people needing support “as yet”.
“I think some of the reason for that is that there is still really strong welfare support in place with the JobSeeker supplement and the JobKeeper payment,” Mr Mercer said.
“But we’re certainly anticipating that once those are removed there will be a lot more people in need and requiring assistance so we’re gearing up for that because we see that wave coming in the next few months.”
In the meantime, Vinnies have been partnering with the Queensland Government’s Community Recovery teams to provide assistance for people in isolation at home.
“That’s a new area, helping the Government with providing basic food and household items or medication pick-ups and things like that; we’re helping with that,” Mr Mercer said.
He said the charity was working hard to prepare for a surge in the number of people seeking help.
“We’re trying to boost our volunteer numbers, and making sure that we’ve got really efficient systems for processing claims and making sure the funding is available,” he said.
“We’ve launched a COVID-19 Appeal to help with some of that funding and that’s gone really well so far, so we’ll keep encouraging people to donate to that through our website.
“So far we’ve raised just over $300,000 in the COVID appeal, so that’s a really good start but we’re going to need more than that.
“When you spread that across Queensland it’s probably not going to go very far but we’ve got to keep promoting that appeal.”
Mr Mercer said communities in Queensland were already suffering hardship before the COVID-19 outbreak because of natural disasters.
“It’s just been a string of things for people and in some cases people have been hit by the whole lot,” he said.
“And some of the areas out on the Darling Downs, for instance, (have had) droughts and fires, and local businesses are now impacted by this, so there’s a huge impact on those communities.”
At the same time Mr Mercer’s been inspired by Vinnies volunteers.
“(They) have just been fantastic through this period,” he said.
“We had to stand them down for a period of time when they just couldn’t operate safely but now we’ve just opened 53 of our stores in the last week and a lot of our volunteers have returned to assist.
“Their enthusiasm’s just been incredible and the popularity of the stores has been incredible, too, so it’s been a really successful re-opening, and those volunteers have just been amazing.”
The stores re-opened with COVID-safe workplace practices in place to ensure social distancing was maintained.
“They’re managing the number of people in the stores, we’ve got hand sanitisers for customers and staff, and wiping down surfaces – all those practices in stores for personal hygiene and safety for staff, volunteers and customers,” Mr Mercer said.
Safe work practices were also in place in support centres where people go for assistance.
To donate to the St Vincent de Paul Society’s COVID-19 Appeal in Queensland go to http://qld.vinnies.org.au/