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Calls to Birthline spike during pandemic

Local

A significant increase in telephone calls and a dramatic decrease in donations have added to the challenges faced by the Birthline Pregnancy Support service in recent months.

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The service continued to provide telephone counselling and material assistance to women dealing with unwanted pregnancies throughout the coronavirus crisis, with calls since March increasing by about 30 per cent.

Birthline director Sally Alford said prior to coronavirus, counselling calls had averaged 40 per cent of total calls, however during April and May this had increased to 63 per cent.

“Calls increased over that time maybe because of the pressures building for the people who may have ordinarily been able to cope, without the extra help,” she said.

“Maybe they were feeling overwhelmed by the additional stresses and isolation of COVID, or maybe more people were finding themselves in the situation of unwanted pregnancy.”

Ms Alford said some of the clients receiving help included families in 14-day isolation, families suffering job losses, women considering abortion due to economic uncertainty, families with exacerbated mental health issues, women experiencing abortion coercion due to financial insecurity and those unable to access baby items elsewhere due to downturn or closures.

“Birthline has an insight into how some families are struggling to cope with additional stressors such as home isolation, job loss, possible increases to drug and alcohol dependence and the added pressure of a baby on the way.”

With many support agencies postponing their home visiting services and deliveries of baby items during the pandemic,
Ms Alford said there were “serious concerns” that the needs of clients were not being met.

“But thanks to a much-loved Birthline volunteer extra efforts were made to deliver cots and baby goods to the mums coming out of hospital. We couldn’t stand to think they didn’t have what they needed to help care for their little ones,” she said.

In contrast to the increasing number of calls received by the support line, donations of much-needed material goods decreased in recent months.

“Usually we get an influx of material donations when people are at home during school holidays, on public holidays and they are cleaning out their homes. We were expecting the same thing to happen, but we got very few donations of items,” she explained

Likewise, the uncertain times have resulted in fewer financial contributions from donors. During March and April, money donations were down 78 per cent, with Birthline forced to cancel fundraising events.

“We’ve also noticed our biggest donations come in just before the end of the financial year and that’s dropped off,” Ms Alford said.

“We are asked to give all the time but giving really has to come from the heart, that’s where it really has value and everyone can benefit.

“What we want to do is welcome people to reach out and become part of the community, learn more about Birthline – send us an email, get in touch and see what they can do to help.”

Birthline is running a special appeal to top up this year’s financial shortfall. For more information go to www.birthline.org.au or contact 8331 1223.

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