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.

At Open Support, we have 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 we have adjusted and extended our 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.

We continue to provide accommodation and support services to those escaping domestic violence, and we have extended our services to help even more women – and their children – in need. 

Our 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.

We also continue 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. We have always provided this support to women staying at our facilities, but now we have 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 we have been working on reducing the impact of social isolation for the past 25 years, it was quite natural to extend this support to our wider family. 

Before we could extend though, we had to adjust. We have replaced our existing face-to-face fortnightly home visits with weekly conversations via phone, skype or online, for up to one hour. This allows our team to continue to offer support and companionship to our socially isolated clients and regularly check on their welfare. We also provide clients with access to much-needed services and 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, we have established weekly one-on-one calls with our 180 volunteers. Although we 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 our turn to care for them.

We have also started checking in with some of our donors who are quite elderly, as well as some of our past clients from other programmes, namely those living in regional areas who had been identified as being isolated.

Overall, our social isolation aid has moved up from 120 existing clients to 400 people, whom we are 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

We continue to provide our transportation service to people from regional and rural NSW who come to Sydney for their medical appointments.

We have transitioned this programme, which is normally enabled by our volunteer drivers, to a third-party provider to maintain this service. One of our team members is managing all the bookings with a cab company for our clients, and she is providing a supportive ear to those who are most vulnerable and anxious about coming to Sydney, particularly during this time.

We are exploring ways to further amplify our services to better help the vulnerable in our community. Stand with Open Support and help us have more impact by donating today.