Personal Hardship Assistance Program delays

BATH (Eastern Victoria) (18:58): (710) My adjournment matter this evening is for the Premier, and it relates to a timely response for the personal hardship payments. The action I seek is for the Premier to guarantee that individuals who contact the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing seeking these payments are responded to on the same day that they actually put in the request or put in the phone call.

This house will certainly know that Mirboo North and surrounding communities have been left decimated by a storm cell that moved through on a front of about a kilometre a half and a 7-kilometre tail. It absolutely smashed the township. It left at least 20 homes uninhabitable, and some of those members of that community have contacted me with their frustration about seeking these personal hardship payments. The Premier came last Friday, and she mentioned these personal hardship payments. She made a commitment that they would be available, and that is all well and good. There are quite strict criteria for those payments to be allocated. They are $640 per person and up to $2240 per family unit.

One of my constituents contacted me today just so frustrated. For the emergency relief payments you ring the 1800 number and you receive an operator message saying, ‘You can wait for 3 hours, or we’ll call you back.’ To date, the time frame is over 24 hours, and their call has not yet been returned.

You can say that there are a lot of indications, requests et cetera, but for a civilised government when there is a time of crisis – when there has been a significant flood or fire, in this case in my region a storm event – it is the responsibility of that government department to actually meet the needs of people in crisis. As I said, it is important that there is a timely response, so I ask the Premier to guarantee that calls made by individuals and families seeking these personal hardship payments are responded to, funnily enough, in a 24-hour period.