COVID-19: How Open Support is stepping up to address rising social needs
Supporting the most vulnerable through the crisis
The Coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the way we live to an unprecedented level over the past few weeks. Yet the vulnerable in our community have seen their lives affected by the crisis even more heavily.
Open Support, one of our charity arms, has been addressing unmet social needs since 1990, and today these unmet needs are rising in the face of the crisis. Actions are needed now more than ever, which is why Open Support has adjusted and extended its support services.
Helping more domestic violence victims to safety
Difficult times always tend to cause a surge in domestic violence – it was the case, for example, during the bushfires crisis. Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Except this time, public health measures asking Australians to stay home mean that women find themselves trapped indoors with their abuser, more prone to tension and conflict due to the crisis.
Open Support continues to provide accommodation and support services to those escaping domestic violence, and has extended its services to help even more women – and their children - in need.
The team at Open Support is now providing outreach crisis intervention and case support to women requiring immediate assistance. This entails a number of things: safety planning, assisting women to access temporary accommodation, coordinating access to benefits, and provision of material support such as food, clothing and sanitary or baby products.
The team also continues to support an increasing number of families through ongoing case management, which is essentially helping domestic violence survivors get back on their feet by empowering them to navigate government systems, to develop confidence in managing household budgets, to access long-term accommodation and much more. Open Support has always provided this support to women staying at its facilities and to past clients, but now it has extended this service to women and families staying in other temporary or crisis accommodation.
Keeping connected with those isolated
Awareness around social isolation and its challenges has never been so acute. Amidst the restrictions put in place to stem the spread of COVID-19, concerns have been raised over the impact of social distancing and isolation on Australians’ well-being – especially in these uncertain times.
As Open Support has been working on reducing the impact of social isolation for the past 25 years, it was quite natural to extend this support to its wider family.
Before they could extend though, they had to adjust. The organisation has replaced its existing face-to-face fortnightly home visits with weekly conversations via phone, skype or online, for up to one hour. This allows the team to continue to offer support and companionship to its socially isolated clients and regularly check on their welfare. The team also provides clients access to much needed services and other reconnection points in the community, since services by other providers have been significantly reduced. In some cases, Open Support seems to be the only lifeline for these vulnerable people.
In addition, Open Support has established weekly one-on-one calls with its 180 volunteers. Although the organisation had to cease all volunteer activities for the moment, it is essential to keep a connection with them. Volunteers are the beating heart of Open Support, they have been dedicated to its mission, and now it is Open Support’s turn to care for them.
Open Support has also started checking in with some of its donors who are quite elderly, as well as some of its past clients from other programmes, namely those living in regional areas who were identified in the past as being isolated.
Overall, its social isolation aid has moved up from 120 existing clients to 400 people, whom Open Support is supporting on a weekly basis by having a little conversation, caring about their wellbeing and offering some social connection and support to help them through these challenging times.
Improving access to healthcare for regional people
Open Support continues to provide its transportation service to people from regional and rural NSW who come to Sydney for their medical appointments.
It has transitioned this programme, which is normally enabled by its volunteer drivers, to a third-party provider to maintain its transportation service. One Open Support team member is managing all the bookings with a cab company for its clients and providing a supportive ear to those who are most vulnerable and anxious of coming to Sydney, particularly during this time.
Open Support is exploring ways to further amplify its services to better help the vulnerable in our community. Stand with Open Support and help them have more impact by donating today.