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Coping with a crisis: human services in times of drought

  • Year: 2004
  • Author: Alston, Margaret; Kent, Jenny
  • Journal Name: Rural Society
  • Journal Number: Vol.14, No.3
  • Country: Australia

This paper draws on original research conducted in 2003 with drought affected people and communities in inland NSW The paper outlines the scale of the drought, its social impacts and the resultant need for services. Income support mechanisms aimed at drought affected people and communities such as the Exceptional Services scheme have proved cumbersome, slow and overly complicated leaving many people without income for considerable periods. Our research shows that human services in the areas studied are largely overloaded and inadequately resourced. Many services rely on aged volunteers and there has been significant pressure on charities to deliver services not provided elsewhere. Delivery of human services in times of crisis such as drought is however, not straightforward. Many people affected by drought are unwilling to approach human services preferring stoicism to any admission of need. One result of this attitude is that 'acceptable' services such as the Rural Financial Counsellors are vastly overloaded and some of these cases may be better handled by trained human service workers. The paper provides insights into more appropriate service models for rural communities in crisis.

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