People in the gig economy. Casual employees. International students without welfare access. Everyone who’s been hit hard and fast by the COVID-19 crisis and is trying to re-orient themselves while realising that their cupboards are literally bare, that’s who the Canberra Relief Network hampers are for and, after launching less than a week ago, the distribution effort is going into overdrive.
Cindy Mitchell, who is helping to coordinate the network set-up, says this is a hand up, not a handout.
“This is a service for everyone who never thought they’d need this kind of help,” she says. “It’s dignified, and it’s about getting people the basics they need.”
The Canberra Relief Network is an entirely new initiative and, hopefully, won’t be needed for too long as we work out how to manage the crisis, and apply the stimulus and employee support measures.
“But in the meantime, people’s pantries are empty,” she says. “We’re sending out basics like pasta, peanut butter and toilet rolls. The idea is, let’s get people steady and able to think about what help they’re eligible for. This assistance will tide them over so they’re not primarily worried about having no food in the cupboard.”
The first step for people who need support is to ring the Canberra Relief Network call centre on 1800 43 11 33. The call centre is staffed by community development workers who can deal with people’s circumstances sensitively.
They’ll ask a series of questions to determine if you’re eligible for the hampers and also establish what your most urgent needs are.
The hampers depend on the size of your household and are tailored to meet individual needs. That might include adding nappies, for example, or continence pads or other goods that are hard to source for babies or the elderly.
Callers are mapped and then linked to an existing community service provider partner in their area. The call centre will check whether people can collect hampers themselves from the service provider or need to have them delivered because they are housebound, quarantined, disabled or have no transport.
The connection with local community service providers also gives those agencies the chance to check on people’s wellbeing, health and any other issues they may be having related to the COVID-19 crisis. Some agencies may be able to arrange to collect prescriptions for people who can’t leave their homes.
“We’re trying to make the gaps as small as possible,” Cindy says. “As this goes on, we can direct people to other agencies that offer assistance with their specific issues.
“We have all had difficulty finding things we normally need. That is not what this service is about. This is for people without support, without family and friends, people with no means to go out and buy what they need.”
For more information, visit Canberra Relief Network.