FRONTLINE support workers are bracing for a likely escalation in family violence in the region amid the stress of the coronavirus pandemic.
Central Highlands Integrated Family Violence Committee chairman Libby Jewson said agencies were banding together to ensure they could continue to provide risk assessment and safety planning via the phone.
This comes as Central Highlands support services moved into work-from-home arrangements and early and lengthened school holidays came were enacted on Monday.
Ms Jewson, who is also WRISC Family Violence Support chief executive officer, said agencies were aware from international experience in COVID-19 and Australian evidence that this was a time for increased risk in family violence.
This is especially with face-to-face contact and because of the situation of social isolation and a reduction in normality for people in daily life.Libby Jewson, Central Highlands Integrated Family Violence Committee
"This is especially with face-to-face contact and because of the situation of social isolation and a reducation in normalities for people in daily life," Ms Jewson said.
"It is dynamic space we're all in and things are changing all the time but we're building on high-level relationships in which we work to help people."
Ms Jewson said people should not hesitate to connect with loved ones who they fear might be at-risk.
Nationwide, advocacy groups have been calling for governments to urgently fund emergency accommodation for women fleeing abuse and resources for the increased burden on specialist support services.
Crime Statistics Agency data shows a spike in family violence during holidays due to increased alcohol consumption and stress.
Women's Health Grampians chief executive officer Marianne Hendron said there were real concerns some women and children would not be safe with an increased risk of becoming isolated from their support networks.
"If people are aware friends or family members could be at risk, checking in on them is an important thing by phone or messaging," Ms Hendon said. "Think of ways that could decrease that isolation by staying in touch."
Ballarat agencies will respond to all phone calls and enquiries with a phone response.
KEY CONTACTS DURING THE CORONAVIRUS SHUTDOWN
- Berry Street Western, 5331 3558 (in-crisis and after-hours support); or, WRISC Family Violence Support, 5333 3666.
- Support for perpetrators, men and adolescents using violence, calls Child and Family Services: Ballarat 5337 3333; Ararat, 5352 2910; Daylesford, 5348 8200; Bacchus Marsh, 5367 9900.
- National counselling service: 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732). State, Safe Steps, 1800 015 188.
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For more information visit dhhs.vic.gov.au/novelcoronavirus or phone the Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398 for advice if you are displaying symptoms.