COVID lockdowns fuel 'social recession', report reveals

Australians are in a “social recession”, according to Anglicare Sydney’s Life After Lockdown report released today.

“Our report shows people are feeling more lonely, more anxious, and more isolated due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said CEO of Anglicare Sydney Grant Millard.

Analysing data from Anglicare Sydney’s own services, the report found that nearly two-thirds of Mental Health and Family Support service clients reported higher levels of stress and anxiety as a result of COVID-19.

Mike Sheedy, Anglicare Sydney’s Head of Mental Health, described this “social recession” as an increasing and constant pattern of adverse effects on people’s personal relationships because of their isolation from others.

He says this recession is faced by all age groups.

“Anglicare’s observations are consistent with University of Melbourne research that reveals mental distress levels across Australia were higher at the end of 2020 than they were during the COVID-19 lock down in mid-2020,” Sheedy said.

“Anglicare and other agencies are now witnessing increased demand for services from people who are isolated and distressed.”

The report also found an increase of around 21 per cent from March 2019 to March 2021 of people accessing Anglicare’s Food and Financial Assistance (FFA) service.

Anglicare is witnessing increasing demand for its services. Anglicare

Of these clients, around 12 per cent reported that they had experienced homelessness during the pandemic.

“While government policy has acted as a buffer for many people, the reduction of income supports over the past six months has coincided with an increasing demand for Anglicare financial hardship services,” said Mr Millard.

“Communities and churches are part of the solution alongside government.” – Grant Millard

One of the report’s stand-out statistics is a 98 per cent increase in people accessing support for rental arrears, between August 2020 and March 2021.

“We are certainly distressed by the increase in rental stress we are seeing,” said Teresa Clark, Head of Anglicare’s FFA. “Affordable housing supply is extremely low, and demand for that supply continues to grow as people lose work or have their hours cut.”

There was also an increase – from 20 per cent in 2018, to 34 per cent in 2021 – of young people between 18-34 years accessing Anglicare’s services. Ms Clark said that with limited skills and experience to fall back on, young people are very susceptible to long-term unemployment, which leads to many social and emotional factors that impact their lives.

“If meaningful intervention is not put in place … we would expect this trend of young people in need to continue,” she said.

The report concludes that post-lockdown, some Australians are “further behind economically, psychologically and socially than they were prior to the pandemic”.

“Communities and churches are part of the solution alongside government. Anglicare has already partnered with local Anglican churches through the Mobile Community Pantry program and other initiatives that rely on the generous support of our donors. We will continue to help in every way we can,” said Mr Millard.

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