In addition to supporting people to rebuild their homes, the Department of Communities’ Community Recovery and Information Centres on the Darling Downs, in South East Queensland and on the Cassowary Coast are placing special importance on the emotional support of communities to address local mental health needs following the natural disasters of early 2011.
“We are providing referrals to Red Cross and Lifeline for social and psychological support for residents who need a helping hand to get their lives back on track,” Phil Carney, Director, Community Recovery Unit said.
More than 500 Department of Communities’ staff members worked at 32 Community Recovery centres across the state in the immediate wake of the disasters, offering advice, referrals and financial assistance.
To quickly respond to the needs of people displaced by the disasters, more than 100 temporary units of accommodation were provided in impacted areas.
After the floods, department officers travelled to disaster areas to let households know about available assistance and help people to complete applications.
“Staff had to be flexible with the way they worked, sometimes sitting on a tree stump with just a mobile phone and a note pad,” Phil said.
By 27 September 2011, 608 new social housing allocations were made to households reporting as victims of the floods or cyclone. The department made case-by-case assessments of applicants who would not normally be eligible for social housing but who could not return to their home due to damage. Social housing tenants whose homes were impacted were granted temporary suspension of rent arrears and debt collection, amnesty on rent increases and four weeks’ rent relief.
In conjunction with the Queensland Building Services Authority, the Department of Communities held 17 sessions to provide information on rebuilding and financial assistance.
By 31 August 2011, the department had provided the following private housing assistance to people living in areas affected by the natural disasters:
- 7372 new bond loans
- 1351 new rental grants
- 18 mortgage relief loans
- 2194 families/individuals helped by the department’s RentConnect Advisory Service
The Queensland Government has established a new website, the Build Back Navigator – with specific information and advice on the rebuilding process, including a list of registered Queensland builders and information on insurance and financial support. The information on the website is also available in a hard copy information pack which can be mailed on request by phoning 13 QGOV (13 74 68).