Survey Findings

Impact of COVID-19 on ACT child,
youth and family services

In early April, the Youth Coalition and Families ACT disseminated a survey to programs and services supporting children, young people and families in the ACT, to better understand the impact of COVID-19. The aim of the survey was to find out how workers and services are being affected by COVID-19, and the issues that they are seeing children, young people and families experiencing.

View the full Communique, including our recommendations.

Key Themes

The survey findings indicate that the COVID-19 crisis is having a significant impact upon children, young people and families in the ACT; and on the services that support them. The following intersecting themes emerged across the child, youth and family sector:

1

Increased demand from existing clients, including young people and families:

Many services reported increased help-seeking from children, young people and families they already support. Key concerns for families included domestic violence and family conflict, financial stress, housing and homelessness, mental health, alcohol and other drug use, and access to technology.

2

Changes in practice and service delivery:

Most services have shifted service delivery online in some form, which brings a range of logistical, technical and ethical challenges, along with opportunities for innovation. Services continuing to provide face to face support (such as residential services) are experiencing different pressures related to implementing social distancing.

3

Self-care for practitioners and other staff:

Many workers and services reported higher levels of anxiety and overwhelm among staff, who are continuing to support clients while also managing the effects of COVID-19 in their own lives, and transitioning to different forms of service delivery. They also reported feeling socially isolated and wanted opportunities to share information and ideas with other workers and services.

4

Transition to remote learning for children and young people:

The transition to remote learning for education is bringing new challenges for families, including where parents may be working from home or where there may be limited access to devices and Internet data.

5

Needs of specific population groups:

Certain population groups are experiencing additional challenges and pressures. Services supporting multicultural young people and families report increased help-seeking from asylum seekers and those on certain types of visas who have become unemployed and are not eligible for income support.

6

Technology:

Challenges for services to transition online include supporting staff to shift work online and increased overhead costs. Services have reported that some children, young people and families do not have adequate access to devices, Internet data, or a reliable network to engage in support or education. There are also concerns about how to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of clients while providing support online to them in their family homes.  

7

Expected increase in new demand for support:

Services are expecting an increase in new referrals over the coming weeks and months as COVID-19 continues to impact upon families. This may include young people and families who have not previously sought assistance from the service system, and may not know how to access support.

Next Steps for the Youth Coalition and Families ACT

Recommendations put forward by the Youth Coalition and Families ACT are for government and community consideration, and highlight the key priority areas whether further support or resources is needed. We are interested to hear directly from services and stakeholders with ideas and strategies to address these recommendations. 
 
We are considering doing a follow-up survey in 1-2 months, as we anticipate the impact upon the sector will evolve over time as the needs of young people and families change, and as early supports are implemented. We are also looking at mechanisms to provide training and professional development through online forums.
 
The Youth Coalition will also be hosting weekly informal catch-ups for youth workers; and collating information about the programs and services being offered for young people in the ACT; in order to support services to coordinate delivery and provide a single access point for young people and youth workers to access information about events and activities. For more information about this, contact [email protected]net.  

If you haven’t yet completed the survey, it’s not too late and we would still appreciate your input.