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Salvos inquiry seeks reasons for loneliness, social isolation in the ACT


Jaimie Jones, Policy and Advocacy Advisor with The Salvation Army, and The Salvation Army’s report.
BY ANTHONY CASTLE

 

The Salvation Army has drawn upon the experiences of corps and social services for a new inquiry into Loneliness and Social Isolation in the ACT.

 

The inquiry from the Standing Committee on Education and Community Inclusion is considering social isolation in the nation’s capital.

 

The Salvation Army’s submission gathered input from a unique range of sources to address this often-neglected issue.

 

“We consulted with people on the frontline to learn from lived experience,” explains Jaimie Jones, a Policy and Advocacy Advisor with The Salvation Army. “We consulted with corps officers, with alcohol and other drug services, with youth homelessness services, Doorways and No Interest Loans team. We drew on data from SAMIS and the research team.”

 

The Salvation Army provides a range of services in Canberra, including emergency relief, financial counselling, no-interest loans, and alcohol and other drug services. The submission focused on those groups of people experiencing the most disadvantage during the cost-of-living crisis.

 

“Our Moneycare services noticed people were diverting money for social activities towards paying off debts, which was leading to decreased social engagement,” Jaimie says. “It has an impact on health and wellbeing. If you’re under financial pressure, it’s one of the first things people do: put the social spending onto the mortgage and food budget. Now Moneycare has introduced social inclusion funds into budget discussions.”

 

“I couldn’t even shout a friend a cup of coffee. It was easier to stay home as much as possible, so I didn’t spend any money. It [the jobseeker payment] cut me off from my friends and family.” Maria – community member

Jennifer Kirkaldy, The Salvation Army’s General Manager of Policy and Advocacy, presented a statement at the inquiry’s public hearing that highlighted the connection between the cost of living and isolation.

 

“If you cannot afford rent and groceries, you cannot afford a cup of coffee with a friend,” Jennifer said. “If you are homeless, the stigma and discrimination make maintaining connections extremely difficult, and, of course, isolation is one of the devastating hallmarks of family violence.”

 

The Salvos serve Canberra through their churches and a range of social supports, such as the Oasis Youth Service and the Braddon Corps Community Days. The inquiry particularly sought to consider the experiences of seniors, young people, people with disabilities, parents, carers, LGBTIQA+ people, and recently arrived migrants and refugees.

 

“One of the things it highlighted was the disadvantage that often isn’t recognised in Canberra,” Jaimie says. “Different people are drawn to the ACT to study, to work. Those cohorts can experience social isolation and loneliness, and sometimes it’s tough for people to break into a community.”

 

Loneliness has significant impacts on health and well-being and can be a recurring theme for the people The Salvation Army works alongside. Disadvantage can push people to the margins or cause them to withdraw from their community.

 

“There’s a club for anything you can imagine in Canberra, but there’s still difficulty in people getting access to them,” explains Josh Gani, Senior Policy and Advocacy Advisor. “Sometimes it’s hard to access social connection. It can lead to significant mental ill-health. It can be extremely hard to escape, with physical health complications, social economic disadvantage and further barriers.”

 

“Of all the services we provided, people needed things like financial support, but people also needed to talk. We could give them a welfare card, and a blanket, but the companionship, it was about what was really in their heart or on their mind.” – Salvation Army officer

The Salvation Army’s submission states that everyone has a role to play in addressing social isolation in the ACT, including individuals, community groups and the government. The Salvation Army has made 22 recommendations in its submission, from increasing Jobseeker and social housing to increased funding for no-interest loan schemes, improved public transport, action on family and domestic violence, and meaningful collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

 

“Social connection to other human beings is as much a part of a healthy human life as having access to food and shelter,” explains Josh. “Loneliness and social isolation can also lead to a real deterioration in someone’s quality of life. Human connection is a foundational part of someone’s life, and The Salvation Army cares for the whole person. All people should have access to love, care and support.”

 

 To read the report PDF, click here

 

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