Nearly $5 million of the funding package will be awarded to Friend Line, a national telephone support service for older Australians, to expand the service further. The hotline is expected to answer 60,000 calls a year once fully expanded.
Additionally, $1 million in grants has been provided to 215 local community organisations across Australia to provide digital devices, like mobile phones and laptops, to at-risk seniors.
Minister for Families and Social Services, Anne Ruston, says access to supports and social or digital connections is vital to support older people living independently at home and reduce their exposure to loneliness and social isolation.
"The coronavirus pandemic has shown us all just how important it is for us all to stay connected," says Minister Ruston.
"With a third of all senior Australians living alone there is a real need for this assistance to alleviate loneliness and social isolation."
Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Richard Colbeck, adds that the organisation Friends for Good, who runs the Friend Line, will be able to expand their phone support service to 30 June, 2024, due to the funding.
"Friend Line is a free and anonymous telephone service that will provide older Australians an opportunity to chat with a friendly volunteer," says Minister Colbeck.
"This funding will enable Friends for Good to increase the capacity of their existing telephone service model, greatly extending their opening hours and call volumes.
"In the first year, Friend Line anticipates answering 20,000 calls, scaling up to at least 60,000 a year after that, up from 5,600 calls a year currently."
The 215 local community organisations receiving grants to provide digital devices to older Australians on the ground will be managed by the Good Things Foundation Australia as the National Network Manager for the Be Connected program.
Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher, says older people gaining confidence in using digital technology is important so they can continue to be connected to the world around them.
"These grants will help provide devices such as a laptop or tablet and data plans to older Australians who would otherwise be at risk of disconnecting," explains Minister Fletcher.
"The Be Connected program, delivered in partnership by the eSafety Commissioner and the Good Things Foundation, plays a critical role delivering digital skills workshops to older Australians, helping build their confidence online as they increasingly turn to virtual services, including telehealth, during COVID-19."
Currently, the Friend Line service operates on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening from 6 to 8pm, and is available on weekend afternoons from 2 to 5 pm.
The service will eventually expand to 10 am to 8 pm, seven days a week, with the funding.
This funding investment complements the new older Australians COVID-19 information hotline, which provides advice and counselling to seniors about the coronavirus.
The Government helped develop this hotline with the Council on the Ageing Australia (COTA), National Seniors Australia, the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) and Dementia Australia.
To call the COVID-19 support line, contact 1800 171 866 between 8:30am to 6pm from Monday to Friday.
For more information about the coronavirus, visit the Aged Care Guide COVID-19 update page.
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