By LULU MARK
THERE has been an increase in family violence cases in the country which could be made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic, an official says.
ChildFund Australia chief executive officer Margaret Sheehan said “communities in PNG already experience high rates of family violence and the Covid-19 pandemic can exacerbate these tensions”.
“The psychological stress on families is enormous, with many parents losing work and facing an uncertain future,” she said.
“Sadly, this may result in more children experiencing or witnessing abuse in their homes.”
People experiencing such violence are advised to call the ChildFund free national helpline 1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain (715-08000) for counselling.
The service will increase support to families, specifically children and adolescents, and help callers handle psychological distress caused by the Covid-19.
She said over the next six months, ChildFund would increase the number of counsellors and information officers working in two shifts – from 7am to 3pm and from 11am to 7pm.
There are plans to expand the hours to later at night.
Unicef representative David Mcloughlin said “we recognise the importance of the Helpline to ensure an immediate response to children and adolescents in need of care, protection and support.
“Apart from acting responsibly to be safe from the virus, we need to make sure that children and adolescents are safe from the secondary impacts that the pandemic may have on their psychological wellbeing and on the increase of violence,” he said.
“We want to reassure parents and children that it is normal to feel sad, isolated or even angry. The Helpline will offer support to parents to ease the prolonged distress and help children and adolescents to build resilience for coping with stressful situations.”
Callers can seek help on issues ranging from crisis counselling and safety planning to suicide intervention and referral to support services.
Additional helpline staff have been recruited and trained to manage the increase in volume of calls related to both family violence, psychosocial distress and Covid-19 enquiries.
By LULU MARK