SUICIDE PREVENTION AUSTRALIA CALLS FOR ACTION TO REDUCE DISTRESS IN THE WAKE OF COVID-19
Suicide Prevention Australia is calling on the government to fund support for gig workers, sole operators, and people at risk of financial stress during the COVID-19 crisis.
In a report released today, Turning the Tide: A six point plan for change, the national peak body for suicide prevention is proposing a suite of measures including immediate access to a temporary safety net of up to 20 days paid leave for gig economy workers. The measures were developed in consultation with more than 70 organisations over six months of consultation.
Suicide Prevention Australia, CEO Nieves Murray said the message from the organisations consulted was loud and clear – gig workers and sole operators need a better safety net so that they aren’t vulnerable to distress when business gets tough.
“In the past two weeks we’ve seen more rapid change in our society and economy than many of us have seen in a lifetime. We risk seeing thousands of Australians left behind if we don’t act now.
“We can never underestimate the impact that every life lost to suicide has on family, friends, workplaces and the broader community.
“Financial stress is one of the leading, preventable factors linked to suicide risk in Australia. Gig workers and sole operators are particularly vulnerable given some of the measures put in place due to COVID-19 including travel restrictions and social distancing.
“The temporary safety net would be available to those who’ve been hit hard by travel restrictions, social distancing measures and caring for family members affected by COVID-19,” said Ms Murray.
The report also proposes that gig workers have access to fee-free vocational qualifications so they develop the skills to explore other career options, should the downturn prove to last longer than expected.
The Turning the Tide: a six point plan for change report not only focuses on the risks posed to the gig economy but also solutions for addressing rising consumer debt and relationship breakdown.
As some families adjust to a single income or no income, responsible lending laws are critical.
“We know a significant proportion of these borrowers are young, on low incomes, and at risk of losing their jobs in the current crisis,” said Ms Murray.
The report proposes strengthening the existing code of practice, as well as immediately introducing legislation to protect consumers with small amounts of credit.
The other solutions outlined in the report include:
- Helping the over-indebted by funding specialist financial counsellors and strengthening responsible lending laws, including tightening up the Buy-Now-Pay-Later industry.
- Helping men navigate changes in their relationships via a male suicide prevention strategy, community gatekeeper training, and by extending mental health screening to all new parents
“If the government listens to our recommendations, then we can start to turn the tide of suicide in Australia.
“Now is the time to take action – before the crisis becomes unmanageable, and thousands of vulnerable people are left in distress and risk hitting crisis point,” said Ms Murray.
Read the full report here.