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Volunteering Queensland is calling upon the Queensland Government to support the volunteering sector by urgently providing rapid antigen tests and personal protective equipment to volunteer involving organisations.
Queensland relies on its volunteers to provide many essential frontline services. From delivering food and medicine, to providing shelter to rough sleepers, to supporting people with disability, volunteers provide vital services all across the state.
In the current wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteer involving organisations report facing critically high demand for services. However, volunteers and organisations have been forced to repeatedly pay out-of-pocket for COVID testing, masks, protective equipment and sanitisation to ensure the health and wellbeing of our communities. With inflated prices and inadequate supply of rapid antigen tests, many have had to cease their volunteering altogether. This leaves vulnerable Queenslanders at risk.
The recent State of Volunteering in Queensland research found that volunteers incurred an average of $1,600 in expenses in 2020. Increases in expenses for COVID testing and protective equipment creates an unsustainable financial barrier that excludes many from giving their time to help others. Without freely available testing and protective equipment, too many of Queensland’s frontline volunteers are being asked to choose between dramatically increased costs or uncertain workplace protections.
Modelling from Flinders University has found that providing free rapid antigen tests is highly likely to save governments money overall. “Easy and equitable access to testing is a cornerstone of the public health response to COVID. It also makes economic sense” said Professors Bonevksi and Afzali, two of the university’s researchers.
Volunteering Queensland joins QCOSS, Queensland community groups and other volunteering peak bodies in advocating for the health and safety of those providing frontline services. We seek support from the state government to protect Queensland’s volunteers and the vital services they provide. To navigate through this incredibly difficult period, our volunteer involving organisations need certainty on the path forward and their ability to engage volunteers safely.
Volunteering Queensland will continue to advocate for the protection of volunteers, including insurance, workplace health and safety, and implementing volunteering best practice.