Emergency relief (ER) is the provision of financial and material aid to people in immediate need, or a referral to link people with specialist community services.
ER was originally designed as a stop-gap measure, to help solve short-term financial problems. However, the view now is that many clients experience long-term financial stress due to a number of factors including inadequate income support; an inability to connect with the workforce; mental health issues and disability; and social isolation. One of the challenges for the ER sector is to help people move from isolation and exclusion to a greater connection with and participation in all forms of community life. Commonwealth funding for ER is provided through the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs’ (FaHCSIA) Financial Management Program (FMP).
This program also encompasses financial counselling, money management and microfinance schemes. Approximately 705 organisations operating 1340 outlets received ER funding through the FMP in 2010-11. However, many more ER organisations rely on alternative or additional sources of funding to resource their ER programs. Some ER organisations contribute funds from their own budgets; state and territory govenments provide some ER funding; community members make valuable donations; and philanthropic donations are also very important.