The significant impact of COVID-19 upon young people, families and the services that support them led us to conduct a survey with workers and services across the child, youth and family sector. A communique was developed and disseminated to key stakeholders with the key findings and recommendations.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.