Media release: Helping frontline community service workers respond to the challenges of COVID-19

07 April 2020

As the social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to spread through the Australian community, many people requiring support from the nation’s community service sector are more vulnerable than ever, while delivery of the services they need is becoming increasingly complicated.

The Australian Alliance for Social Enterprise (TAASE), based at the University of South Australia’s Social Enterprise Hub, is working with community services organisations across Australia to track and identify pressure points as the sector responds to the unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

TAASE Director, Professor Ian Goodwin Smith, says the research group is currently conducting a series of short surveys designed to offer a fortnightly snapshot of the pressures upon the sector and the community members they serve, capturing changes in an evolving landscape.

“Frontline workers are undertaking vital tasks that place them at risk for the good of our communities,” Prof Goodwin-Smith says.

“With lockdowns, quarantine and social distancing, comes a range of unintended consequences that place significant pressure upon communities and community services workers.

“Financial hardship, homelessness and domestic violence are amongst complex issues that stand to be compounded by necessary responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Mental health, aged-care and disability support services, to name a few, all have to operate in this new environment where the safety and wellbeing of both frontline workers and communities needs to be continually monitored and reassessed.”

TAASE is one of the nation’s foremost social service sector research concentrations, and lead researcher on the COVID project, Dr Jonathon Louth, says data gathered through the fortnightly surveys will help service operators and policy makers to develop an evidence-based response to emerging pressures, and support rapid advocacy for the sector.

“We’re aiming to track challenges for both staff and community members in need of support, identify key community sector pressure points, nationally and at state and territory levels,” Dr Louth says.

“At the same time, we’re also very conscious of the need to share success stories from across the nation, so the sector can rapidly adopt and seek support for those techniques and approaches that are working.”  

The first fortnightly survey is currently open at a dedicated website, COVID-19 Community Services Snapshot, with initial focus on leaders and line managers.

“While the voices of all frontline community services workers are important, at this stage we are restricting survey responses to leaders and line managers, from CEOs to team leaders,” Dr Louth says.

“This is to ensure that data remains manageable and reflects reported stress points and bottlenecks within organisations.”

Further information is available by contacting TAASE through the COVID-19 Community Services Snapshot portal.

Media contact: Dan Lander phone: +61 408 882 809

email: dan.lander@unisa.edu.au

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