Understanding the impacts of COVID-19 on vulnerable Australians

Insights from Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand
Economic depressions Community-based social services Poverty Socio-economic disadvantage Australia

The onset of the global coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) quickly brought everyday life for most people to a halt. Across Australia, stay-at-home orders were announced. For some, the disruption was minimal, moving work from an office environment to a home setting. But for Good Shepherd’s clients, many of whom experience high levels of complexity and disadvantage, the story was seldom straightforward.

Good Shepherd, like all community services organisations, was forced to quickly design and deliver services in new ways. Central to this was the need to understand the impacts of stay-at-home orders, more serious lockdown measures such as those experienced in Victoria, changes to employment, and changes to the social safety net on our clients.

The economic and social situation was complex, and the experiences of our clients were complex too. There were positives – such as the positive impact on health and wellbeing seen from the Coronavirus supplement, which for many people effectively doubled their income. Negative impacts on employment, women’s safety and financial security were also tracked. There is also a fundamental change in disadvantage in Australia, with large numbers of new cohorts relying on social services for the first time in their lives.

This report summarises the findings of a multi-pronged approach to understanding changing patterns. The sources include reviewing population-level trends, talking to practitioners, and hearing directly from clients.

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