COVID-19 by the numbers – helping people during the pandemic

COVID-19 by the numbers – helping people during the pandemic

Monday, 14 September 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended so much of our day-to-day lives. But what has that meant for people who need legal help for their real-world problems? In this, the first of a series, we look at the changes in our work since the pandemic began.

In times of uncertainty and difficulty, people’s everyday problems – from fines, to custody of kids, all the way to homelessness and family violence – can be exacerbated.

During the pandemic, it’s more important than ever that Victorians can get the help they need to resolve those problems so we can all live in a fairer, better community.

By taking a high-level look at the numbers, we can see that people still very much need legal help, and the nature of their problems seems to have changed under COVID-19.

What kind of help are people looking for?

The pandemic and its restrictions have led to huge social and economic difficulties. This is demonstrated in the information people are searching for, or calling us about. People worried about staying in their rental homes after losing work are looking into their employment and tenancy rights in higher numbers.

Likewise, as families are required to stay home under various restrictions, more people are contacting us asking how to deal with violence in their homes, or if they can still have shared custody of their kids if families are separated.  

Website

In response to the pandemic we created dedicated pages to help people find answers to these issues we saw arising. People have visited those pages 161,923 times since March, and the most popular pages give an insight into the problems the community is facing around COVID-19:

People needing more detailed, in-depth support were able to call our Legal Help line or use our Legal Help Chat. During this time, we’ve made changes to our intake systems to enable us to respond faster to people who need help about family violence.

Our Legal Help team answered 30,828 phone calls and conducted 15,587 webchats with people seeking help. During the pandemic, we have seen a doubling in the number of people seeking help through our webchat. As much of our daily lives have moved online under COVID, it seems people have grown more comfortable seeking help via the online tool.

Legal Help phone line

The main reasons people call the Legal Help phone line during COVID-19 (see graphics) were:

  • people facing family violence (7.9% of total calls answered 2020, 5.1% of total calls answered 2019)
  • people responding to accusations of family violence (7.5%, 4.5%)
  • residential landlord and tenant problems (7%, 4%)
  • people seeking to spend time with their family (6.4%, 6%)
  • property settlements during separations (3.8%, 4.3%).

A graphic showing changes in problems people have called Victoria Legal Aid about in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic

Legal Help Chat

The main problems for people on our webchat were:

  • family issues, such as access to children or divorce proceedings (10.3% of total chat sessions 2020, 11.9% of total chat sessions 2019)
  • residential landlord and tenant issues (10%, 5%)
  • people facing family violence (4.7%, 3.6%)
  • fines and infringements (4.2%, 5.1%).

A graphic showing changes in problems people have chatted online with Victoria Legal Aid about in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic

As Australia hopefully continues to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the challenges facing the community will continue to change, and we will be doing our utmost to respond to people’s needs.

Note – the data presented here is from 1 March to 31 July, 2020. Annual changes are compared against the same period in 2019, to demonstrate the effect the pandemic has had on our work.

 

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