Majority of Kids Helpline calls unanswered, Victorian inquiry finds
Posted On April 30, 2022
An inquiry investigating the impacts of Victoria’s COVID-19 lockdowns has revealed the state’s Kids Helpline was unable to answer nearly 66 per cent of calls for help during the pandemic.
Close to 123,000 Victorians tried to contact the service last year, a 20 per cent increase on 2019 levels, but counsellors could only respond to 46,000 requests.
In 2019, about 11.5 per cent of children contacted the service about suicide-related concerns, and between March 2020 and December 2021, there was a 264 per cent increase in cases relating to a child in immediate danger.
Kathryn Mandla from Your Town, which looks after the Kids Helpline, told the inquiry there is inadequate funding.
“The longevity of lockdown measures in Victoria, the uncertainty around education and increased restrictions had a major impact on demand,” Ms Mandla said.
Ms Mandla said funding didn’t match the needs to provide adequate support.
“We have been asking governments for additional funding for our kids helpline service,” she said.
According to the state government, Kids Helpline received two extra funding packages, totalling an extra $1million dollars to help the service cope.
The federal government contributed $9.5 million last year.
Beyond Blue chief executive Georgie Harmon said the lockdowns encouraged the surge.
“Every time there was a lockdown, regardless of where it was, we saw a spike,” Ms Harmon said.
Ms Harmon said by mid-2021, monthly demand for Beyond Blue’s services had risen by about 30 per cent, with the service receiving 128,000 calls and 13,000 counselling web chats nationally between April 2020 and March this year.
Headspace also faced unprecedented demand in Victoria during the past two years, but chief executive Jason Trethowan said the system was stretched even before the pandemic.
“People say let’s get back to where we were pre-pandemic but I’m not sure we want to get back there,” he told the inquiry.
“There was already pre-existing barriers and there was a lot of need.”
Victoria’s Pandemic Declaration Accountability and Oversight Committee is reviewing the pandemic orders and will continue to hold public hearings throughout the year.