Sometimes shutdown can lead to growth

Laura Myers – Manager Windsor Office

In some ways, this experience has pushed people to practice mindfulness and grow their independence. As a result, once we re-open, we will be in a position to shift gears in group activities and focus not only on socialisation but also capacity building.

Our programs service a large territory, from The Hawkesbury to The Blue Mountains and Lithgow. Transitioning to remote services was particularly challenging for us because a lot of the group activities we were running weren’t viable for virtual delivery. There were many participants who did not possess or even want the necessary technology.

Everyone has felt the impact of losing those social connections. We assisted those who did want to participate in connecting online, with fine-tuning their set-up and staff have delivered musical instruments for lessons via Zoom. Some people simply don’t feel secure connecting via the internet. The idea of it can compound certain mental health issues, such as feelings of paranoia, which are already heightened by the pandemic.

Where necessary, we purchased phones to ensure that people were contactable.

Phone groups have been more positively received. We have a group of people from Katoomba taking part in group trivia by phone and treat it as an opportunity to catch-up over coffee. We delivered craft kits to support art activities via phone link, as well as a variety of games that people can play in isolation, to occupy their time. Others enjoy the Autumn Art files that Jane uploaded to Yammer which support mindfulness. When they’re out for a walk, they notice the colours of Autumn leaves and take a photograph or draw what they’ve seen.

A lot of effort was invested in assisting people with setting up apps on their phones which has given rise to increased independence around doing things online, such as checking whether payments have been received, ordering groceries  or signing up for hampers that various community organisations deliver. We’ll keep this in place once regular services resume, to encourage people to keep moving forward with their recovery.

As people grow in self-sufficiency, what has occurred is that some no longer feel stuck in a place in their life where they are preoccupied by everyday survival. They are more open to focusing on the bigger picture of their life goals and wellbeing, like mindfulness. These aspects of a person’s plan usually take us a long time to progress to. Now, we have an opportunity to support them to implement the tools their clinicians have given them. We’ll focus more on capacity building once onsite groups resume.

The team has certainly faced some initial challenges in finding a balance working from home and adjusting to new ways of delivering supports. Online learning and development opportunities filled our days at first but once we got our heads around new and innovative ways of doing things, everything flowed. We generally provide a lot of outreach and had grown accustomed to operating autonomously. Needing to collaborate around ideas and making changes happen has been an adjustment that brought the team together on many fronts.

Once our centre based groups are able to re-open, we aim to offer staff the flexibility to structure their hours around operational needs. We will work toward a new way of working while maintaining our service delivery standards, particularly to those most in need. For example, always having someone at our office for the people we support to reach out to is essential.

Someone who has surprised us, is a person we support within our program who required a significant amount of our face-to-face support. Once COVID-19 regulations came into effect, the supports we were able to deliver were not enough to satisfy all of their needs. With our encouragement, they reached out to family and have rebuilt that relationship which significantly reduces the level of support they need from us. This has been an important step in their recovery.


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