Snapshot one – early indicators and initial thoughts

Snapshot two is now open.

We had an impressive response to our first fortnightly COVID-19 community sector survey. Senior community service sector leaders and line-managers from every Australian state and territory responded.  Diversity was also reflected by the spread of providers who service urban, regional and/or remote areas. 

While the qualitative data are still being worked through, there are some clear themes that we will be examining as more snapshots take place. Many of the initial themes relate to the practical difficulties of maintaining service provision (e.g. availability of PPE, mixed government messaging, workforce issues). Overall, there is a pronounced concern for the wellbeing of frontline staff – with more than 50% of respondents indicating that their staff were at ‘a great deal’ or ‘a lot’ of risk to being exposed to COVID-19. 

This connects to a stated need to directly hear from frontline workers. Acting on this feedback, frontline community sector workers will now be invited to take part in future snapshots. 

Early analysis of the data reveals concerns around maintaining work practices and service delivery. While the data at this stage are too sparse to draw significant conclusions, concerns around the impact of lockdown were much higher in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. Child caring responsibilities have had an impact across the country, but again these concerns scored much higher in the eastern states.  

With respect to clients and service delivery, there are similarly early themes emerging. Responding to homelessness and the need for appropriate housing was an issue nation-wide, but it was overwhelmingly seen as the most acute factor in South Australia. Taking weighting into consideration (first, second and third most acute factors), emergency relief was the most significant factor driving client need nation-wide, with the immediacy and the severity of the situation in the eastern states driving up this figure. 

Other emerging issues include concerns relating to remote Aboriginal communities (predominantly about the Northern Territory and Western Australia, but also about communities in Victoria). Acting on insights from the initial data, aged care and disability support (particularly in the eastern states) will be closely observed over future iterations. Across all jurisdictions, client needs relating to domestic violence and child protection (and difficulties with adapting service practices) were recorded.   

What is remarkably consistent across all states and territories is that client need for mental health services was overwhelmingly identified as the ‘third most acute factor’.  While still early days, this appears to be an underlying factor that may balloon.  Future demand upon mental health services will need to be monitored very closely. 

More detailed analysis will be forthcoming over the coming days and weeks.  

Increasing the participation rates in subsequent snapshot surveys will be important for identifying trends and themes. Taking only one to four minutes, we encourage all leaders, managers and frontline workers in the Australian community services sector to take part and share this survey through their networks where they can. 

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