Review of Commonwealth funded Emergency and Food Relief Services

The Emergency Relief in Australia: A review of the Commonwealth Funded Emergency Relief program Review (the Review) considered how effectively the current system of Emergency Relief and Food Relief services and funding addressed the needs of clients, particularly in the context of challenges from the coronavirus pandemic and the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires.

The Review focused on the interactions between Commonwealth-funded Emergency and Food Relief providers, the on-the-ground delivery of services, and referral arrangements including the role of referral pathways for clients with multiple needs, to access holistic supports they need to build their long-term financial resilience and wellbeing.

The Review was a multi-stage research project that included the perspectives of clients, funded providers, stakeholders from the National Coordination Group (NCG), and referral partners including financial counselling, mental health and homelessness services.

A final Review report was provided to the department in mid-2022. Key findings from the Review include:

  • The Emergency Relief program is effective in meeting clients’ needs, with around 96 per cent of clients reporting that services met or exceeded their expectations. 
  • Providers reported an increase in demand for Emergency and Food Relief during the pandemic.
  • Clients seek Emergency Relief for different circumstances, ranging from an unexpected, one-off hurdle requiring short-term support, through to recurrent use of services. 
  • Emergency Relief services act as a gateway for providers to connect clients with referral services for more targeted supports such as financial counselling, mental health and housing services.
  • Food assistance plays a crucial role in the emergency relief system and Food Relief providers alleviate pressure on Emergency Relief providers by taking on labour-intensive aspects of food assistance such as collection, transportation and storing of food.
  • Service delivery during the pandemic encouraged innovation and collaboration from the sector.

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