Federal Government brokerage is helping Centacare support at-risk women to safety in regional South Australia as the complexity of client cases continues to grow in the wake of COVID-19.

Since March, demand for support has doubled across Centacare’s specialist domestic violence services in the South East, Riverland, Murray Mallee and Adelaide Hills.

Limestone Coast Domestic Violence Service Manager Susie Smith said the funding boost has enabled Centacare to be more flexible and creative in responding to the individual needs of women facing heightened levels of abuse.

Susie said the quick access to brokerage packages, and broader eligibility for help, meant Centacare was able to reach a larger cohort of women during the health pandemic.

The most common use of the brokerage was for transport to relocate families to safety, while other women and children had been empowered to stay in their homes through security upgrades such as safety screens.

One woman was able to access immediate dental treatment for facial injuries sustained at the hands of a perpetrator.

“Providing taxi fares and phone credit to clients has helped them to remain engaged with their case managers and other vital community supports at a time of great uncertainty and exacerbated risks,’’ Susie said.

Financial strain is often a barrier for individuals leaving abusive households.

Riverland Domestic Violence Service Manager Angela Avery said the brokerage had covered   food and pharmacy costs, trauma counselling, whitegoods, household furniture, airfares and removalists.

“Clients’ basic needs are higher than usual,’’ Angela said.

“We have seen a rise in sexual assaults and alcohol use by perpetrators.’’

Murray Mallee and Adelaide Hills Domestic Violence Service Manager Gayle Tourish said COVID-19 had led to high levels of homelessness due to unemployment and increasing pressure on the private rental market.

In other cases, perpetrators had used COVID-19 to control their partner, deprive them of basic needs and block them from leaving.

“The severity and frequency of abuse associated with drug use and psychosocial stressors such as unemployment has increased,’’ Gayle said.

It costs about $350 to keep a family safe each night including accommodation and food, transport, essential clothing, health, and personal expenses.