Tasmanian women face between a two and 10-week wait when trying to access family violence counselling services.
As of December 7, women accessing Engender Equality's counselling services faced a two to three-week wait in the North, a three to four-week wait in the North-West and a 10-week wait in the South.
Waiting periods in the North and North-West had been reduced due to extra staff funded through extra funding supplied to meet increased demand during the pandemic.
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Engender Equality chief executive officer Alina Thomas said the service was daily balancing the needs of people trying to access support and the needs of people already engaged with the organisation.
She said on top of that juggling act there was also the problem of people in the community not reaching out when they need help.
"The conditions of COVID were such an enabler, for people who use violence and use power and control, that even with the lockdown shifting and the COVID restrictions shifting it has made it increasingly difficult for people to recognise some of those pervasive but discreet forms of control," Ms Thomas said.
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"Where people might have been at the point of leaving relationships at this time last year we are finding that those relationships have kind of persevered not necessarily in a good way.
"That complexity has been really obvious in the counselling rooms here. We are finding that we are almost having to go back to unpack some of the behaviours."
The state government committed $27 million over three years to addressing family and sexual violence in the 2019-20 state budget.
That funding is pooled with the Department of Communities effectively acting as a holder for the funds. The department is then billed by relevant agencies, such as Engendered Equality, for their services.
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A government spokesperson said this funding model resulted in some carry forward of funding.
"However our expectation is that funding will be fully expended over the three year period to the end of 2021-22 noting that all funding remains in the centralised pool and can only be spent on family and sexual violence initiatives," they said.
The spokesperson said the government recognised that long wait times for people trying to access services were not acceptable.
They said an additional $1 million was provided in the 2019-2022 Family and Sexual Violence Action Plan to provide additional counselling services on top of the service the government's program.
"The Tasmanian government has already invested an additional $2.7 million to respond to family and sexual violence during the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the Tasmanian government's Social and Economic Support package and we have secured additional funding through the National Partnership Agreement on COVID-19 Domestic and Family Violence Responses," the spokesperson said
"Advice is that the additional funding is having a positive impact on addressing demand and decreasing waiting lists and the Government will review ongoing funding in the context of the coming budget.
"Furthermore, remaining National Partnership funding is being held in contingency for allocation in early 2021 to respond to any potential or unforeseeable needs and/or spikes in the rate of family and sexual violence over the Christmas-New Year period."
Engender Equality was one of six organisations to receive funding through the state government's COVID-19 response.
- If you or someone you know is affected by the issues raised in this article help is available at 1800 RESPECT or by calling 1800 737 732.
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