News State Victoria News Victorian charity boost to meet growing pandemic needs

Victorian charity boost to meet growing pandemic needs

Donations from as far as Perth were made for people placed in lockdown in public housing towers in the suburb of North Melbourne. Photo: ABC/Simon Winter
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Victorian charities are embarking on a hiring frenzy to respond to the unprecedented challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

As Victoria hit 3734 active cases and recorded its deadliest day on Friday, charity Anglicare Victoria announced it was hiring 88 new staff across Melbourne and regional Victoria.

Anglicare says many of the clients its new recruits will work with have never used social services.

Staff will deliver food and supplies to isolated people, offer care during quarantine, and financial counselling to households struggling with bills.

The cash for fresh recruits comes from the state government’s $500 million Working For Victoria scheme, designed to find new work for unemployed Victorians.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre got funding from the scheme for 106 new staff, of whom 101 are asylum seekers, to meet pandemic-related demand.

Recruitment co-ordinator Cam Walles says a hiring spree in May and June is having a profound impact on service delivery.

“Suddenly having your service recipient now working alongside you as a colleague, there’s a very significant shift of mutual learning that occurs there,” Ms Walles said.

“For communities that have been so marginalised, it’s a radical opportunity to look at what inclusion means.”

New recruits are working in the food bank and community meals program, which has experienced an 80 per cent increase in demand since the pandemic hit, Ms Walles said.

New workers are also packing and delivering food while others are in employment support and health messaging.

The ASRC is the primary supermarket, pharmacy and employment support service for many asylum seekers who are not eligible for Centrelink, JobSeeker or JobKeeper payments.

The charity’s new paid staff also make up for the loss of pre-pandemic volunteer staff who were mostly aged over 60.

A coalition of seven youth services is using the Working For Victoria funding to hire 51 new youth workers.

Among them is the Centre For Multicultural Youth, which has seen a rise in demand for its services during the pandemic as migrant and refugee youth unemployment has risen.

Chief executive Carmel Guerra said CMY would employ more multicultural staff under 30 years old and get more young people back into work.

There are 59 community organisations taking on new workers with the government funding, according to the Victorian Council of Social Service.

Meanwhile, the volunteer-run Australian Muslim Social Services Agency, which does not have funding, revealed it had received $113,000 in donations from across the country.

AMSSA’s youth arm, based in North Melbourne, mobilised to deliver food and other supplies to the nine public housing towers put into strict lockdown in early July and has been amazed by donations from as far as Perth.

“It helped us a lot,” deputy director Saeed Ali said.

The service swelled to meet acute needs and received in-kind donations for the nine towers but is back to 10 volunteers, he said.

The money will be used to buy and deliver food, medicine and supplies to public housing residents and others who have to isolate at home.

Mr Ali said he hoped the volunteer-only organisation would be able to secure government funding to expand its services and employ local young people.