The number of calls to Lifeline Canberra which require an emergency intervention are up almost 130 per cent on this time last year, a Legislative Assembly inquiry has heard.
Lifeline Canberra chief executive Carrie-Ann Leeson revealed the shocking figure during evidence to the inquiry into the ACT government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Friday morning.
Ms Leeson also described the "massive" funding void confronting the organisation, which has been unable to fundraise and has struggled to train new call staff due to restrictions imposed amid the pandemic.
She said the service had experienced a surge in demand on every front in the past four months, which was "not normal".
In a statistic she described as "remarkable", the number of calls to Lifeline which required the immediate intervention of emergency services was up 129 per cent compared to the same period last year. Those calls typically related to suicide, child safety or domestic violence, she said.
The revelation alarmed members of the committee conducting the inquiry, with chair Alistair Coe exclaiming: "Wow".
Ms Leeson said the total number of calls to Lifeline was up 22 per cent amid the COVID-19 crisis.
There had been a 44 per cent jump in financial-related calls and a 23 per cent spike in the number of people seeking mental health support.
Among the most significant trends during the pandemic had been the number of people calling Lifeline to speak about concerns related to the Canberra community.
The service received 885 calls from Canberrans wanting to speak about local issues in the past four months, a 520 per cent increase on the same time last year, she said.
"That obviously flows on from bushfires, through the hail, the smoke and then onto COVID-19," she said.
Ms Leeson said the organisation was facing serious budget challenges amid expectations demand for crisis support services will continue to remain high in the coming years.
She said Lifeline cost about $2.5 million a year to run, but only received about $200,000 a year in government funding. It has received an extra $250,000 in government funds to help cope with an extra demand during the pandemic.
Ms Leeson said the organisation had in the past relied on fundraising events and corporate training to make up the budget shortfall. But the coronavirus restrictions have meant those events and sessions have had to be cancelled.
"We are acutely aware of our financial situation and we are running almost daily our cashflow forecasts," she said.
"There is a massive void in there. Any assistance or any support would be greatly appreciated."
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