Support wait times reduced for women escaping violence

·2-min read

Women fleeing domestic violence are accessing government payments faster after a massive backlog in a financial assistance program was eased.

Victim-survivors of domestic violence are eligible for a $5000 assistance package aimed at reducing financial barriers after leaving a violent relationship.

Wait times for the Escaping Violence Payment trial, set up by the coalition government in 2021, have been slashed from 33 to six business days on average.

It comes after a $38.6 million funding boost in the October budget allowed more staff to be hired and more hours for existing staff.

In April 2022, there was a backlog of 4000 people awaiting support. By April 2023, this had been reduced to 764.

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said it is unacceptable that domestic violence victims were waiting over a month to receive support.

"Women and children experiencing violence should not be forced to remain in unsafe situations due to financial barriers," she said.

Inadequate funding failed to properly provision for the amount of demand the payment would attract, leaving women and children without adequate financial support to escape violence, the minister said.

Tara Hunter, director of clinical and client services at domestic violence advocacy group Full Stop Australia, is pleased to see the payments are being processed more efficiently.

But she wants more support offered to victim-survivors including safety assessments, ongoing case management and better response times as they go through the legal process.

"It's only one part of a bigger intervention," Ms Hunter told AAP.

Independent MP Kylea Tink echoed her comments, saying there is still a long way to go in supporting domestic violence victims.

"Women fleeing violence need a supportive whole of system approach," Ms Tink tweeted on Tuesday.

"While this is good news, the truth is severe shortages in emergency accommodation are still trapping families."

The program's provider, UnitingCare Network, has also taken steps to improve the way it delivers its services and triages requests.

"This means people are able to use the payment to not only set up a home free of violence, but also immediately purchase essential household items, such as fridges and beds, which they may not otherwise have been able to afford," Uniting Vic-Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike said.

The assistance comes in the form of $1500 cash and the remainder in goods and services or direct payments of bonds, school fees or other support to help establish a safe home.

Another $38.2 million was set aside for the program in this month's budget, extending the payment until January 2025.

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