Red Cross services those in need

DOUBLE THE HELP: Mount Gambier Red Cross executive David Walshaw says the organisation's transport program has more than doubled over the past year.

Charlotte Varcoe

A “PERFECT storm” of issues has resulted in the Red Cross more than doubling its trips for those in need under its Commonwealth Home Support Program.

The program assists those over the age of 65 by giving free transportation to social outings or medical appointments, including trips to specialists in either Western Victoria or Adelaide.

The Red Cross receives funding for up to 1000 trips per year but Mount Gambier’s Red Cross executive David Walshaw said this has now doubled within the past year.

Mr Walshaw said issues throughout the globe such as the war in Ukraine, the rise in interest rates and the increased cost of living has resulted in an increase in people needing travel assistance.

He said there had been a “gentle escalation” from the funded levels with more and more people in the community experiencing transportation isolation.

“Whether this be that they cannot afford registration fees for their car, repairs or even fuel so their cars are sitting in their driveways and they are then relying on either public transport or Red Cross transport,” Mr Walshaw said.

“The cost of living in general is contributing to this and we are seeing a lot of living pressures on everyone and what we are seeing now is the working poor where both partners are working but don’t generate enough cash to keep up with the increase in living.

“This means we are having a lot of people that we have never seen before coming into our office for things like breakfast cereals or even dog food.”

He said the increase in the minimum wage recently announced would help those in need but the increase in pricing for petrol and other inflations would result in the wage not keeping pace with people’s outgoings.

“Many of the people we are carrying for our programs are people who don’t usually come in,” Mr Walshaw said.

“We usually have a significant number of clients and we know roughly how many trips those clients take each year but now we are servicing more people meaning our trips are increasing.”

He said many people needing help had arrived in the region with either no car or licence with the only means of travelling around Mount Gambier being public transport or the Red Cross programs.

“We are different from metropolitan areas, we don’t have Uber or as many taxis available and transport is light here in town so people are relying on programs like ours to get them from one place to another,” Mr Walshaw said.

“Transport is a significant aspect of socialisation and health because if they cannot get to the specialist appointments or the pharmacy it contributes to negative health.

“If we can continue to get people to their health appointments or to the pharmacy to get the healthcare they need then that reduces the inpatient numbers at the hospitals for more acute illnesses and this is something that the Red Cross will always be in the business of, we will always make sure we will be able to work within the capacity of the organisation.”

The Red Cross can also assist those under the age of 65 who are struggling with transport.