The Les Twentyman Foundation recognises that the Victorian Government’s decision to lockdown public housing towers in Flemington and North Melbourne is a public health measure and we must do everything we can to minimise the spread of the coronavirus across densely populated buildings.
At the same time, it is critical that support for these communities must go well beyond a food package, with mental health and access to social and youth support services an absolute priority to protect the mental health and wellbeing of the people impacted.
Many of the people who are living under, what is now the most severe restrictions of the Victorian Government’s response to the coronavirus, are already experiencing hardship and poverty. It is absolutely essential that they must not be left to feel alone and abandoned in this most difficult of times.
Which is why we are calling on the State Government to:
- Ensure that residents receive the best care and support that is available including access to culturally appropriate food, healthcare and social services.
- Adopt a community-led approach which treats residents with respect, dignity and acknowledges the important role they have to play in working together as partners to decide what is best for their community.
- Make a substantial and urgent investment in youth workers across suburbs that are experiencing lockdowns to ensure we can protect the social and mental wellbeing of children and young people.
There is no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on people living in poverty. We are extremely concerned for the mental health and wellbeing of the children and young people impacted.
Over the years, we’ve worked with thousands of clients living in these towers and other public housing across Melbourne. We know that many of these clients come from traumatic backgrounds and are facing multiple stressors and hardships in their lives. This is an extremely confusing, frightening and stressful time for everyone, especially children and young people.
At this stage, we don’t know how long these residents will be in lockdown. What we do know is that this experience may have a long term negative impact on anxiety and stress for many children and young people. It is essential that we plan strategies to effectively support these youth over the longer term.
The Les Twentyman Foundation stands alongside the statements by the Victorian Council for Social Service (VCOSS) which calls for the lockdowns to be “done right, done proportionately and done with sensitivity” and the Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic) which urges greater investment in these young people’s wellbeing, education and future opportunities, especially jobs.
Our youth workers continue to support young people and families who are struggling at this time.
Protecting the community from this virus is important, but what must be of equal importance is protecting the mental health and wellbeing of all who are being asked to pay the price of liberty to keep the broader community safe.
Chief Executive Officer