Confirmed funding cuts to Seniors Rights Victoria (SRV) as a result of the 2023-24 Victorian state budget will jeopardise its effectiveness in the fight against elder abuse, putting older Victorians at further risk.
A loss of over $1 million of vital funding from the Victorian Government over the next four years will have immediate consequences. From 1 July, SRV will be forced to reduce the number of its helpline advocates to a solitary staff member, causing a domino-like blowout in live telephone support, callbacks, and appointments with its casework team.
“This shortfall means that people are losing their jobs,” said Seniors Rights Victoria CEO, Chris Potaris, “at the same time we’re losing frontline capacity and capability.”
Demand for support and legal advice against the scourge of elder abuse is already at increased levels; as of June 2023, callers to SRV are currently waiting 4-5 weeks for an appointment.
“Ahead of these cuts, we’ve already seen growing demand for our services,” Mr Potaris continued.
“We’ve experienced an increase of 39% on calls to our helpline since this same time last year,” he said. “Specifically, we received 985 calls in the first quarter of 2022 as compared to 1,371 calls in the first quarter of 2023.
“The vast majority of these calls are in relation to elder abuse, and come from older Victorians, friends, family and professionals.”
Already at a breaking point, circumstances at Seniors Rights Victoria are about to become worse.
“We will not be able to maintain our 24-hour turnaround target from 1 July as a result of these cuts,” Mr Potaris said.
“We already cannot meet the current level of demand from the community, and further pressure will have real-world impacts on some of the most vulnerable older people in our community.
“The current 4-6 week wait time for a member of our legal team to respond will blowout to several months in a very short space of time,” Mr Potaris warned.
Seniors Rights Victoria has provided support to over 5,400 older Victorians in the past 12 months, a significant increase from the preceding 12-month period. This could fall by close to 2,000 people in the coming year and in the face of the growth in demand seen in recent months. This represents 2,000 older, vulnerable, and marginalised people that could be left without support when they most need it.
“I provide a commitment to the older Victorians we assist that we will significantly ramp-up our engagement with the State Government on these serious funding cuts, as well as fight to bring these matters to the community’s attention.” said Mr Potaris.
Despite these challenges, we are determined to keep supporting older Victorians as best we can. Those experiencing elder abuse can call our confidential Seniors Rights Victoria helpline on 1300 368 821 for assistance and support.
For nationwide assistance, and to access additional resources in 20 different languages, please contact the Australian Human Rights Commission on 1800 ELDERHelp (1800 353 374).
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Council on the Ageing (COTA) Victoria is the leading not-for-profit organisation representing the interests and rights of people aged over 50 in Victoria. For over 70 years, we have led government, corporate and community thinking about the positive aspects of ageing in the state.
Today, our focus is on promoting opportunities for and protecting the legal rights of people 50+. We value ageing and embrace its opportunities for personal growth, contribution, and self-expression. This belief drives benefits to the nation and its states alongside communities, families, and individuals.
Seniors Rights Victoria (SRV) is the key state-wide service dedicated to advancing the rights of older people and the early intervention into, or prevention of, elder abuse in our community.
SRV has a team of experienced advocates, lawyers, and social workers who provide free information, advice, referral, legal advice, legal casework, and support to older people who are either at risk of or are experiencing elder abuse. SRV supports and empowers older people through the provision of legal advice directly to the older person.
Marketing & Communications Manager, COTA Victoria & Seniors Rights Victoria
Phone: +61 3 9655 2159