The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the demand for services across the community sector. The pandemic has also transformed – at least temporarily – the way in which many community service organisations design and deliver their services. As we transition into the recovery phase, which will be shaped by a bleak economic outlook, there is an urgent need to understand both the changes to “felt demand” and the nature of service adaptations and the effects of these adaptations – both intended and unintended – on people who access services.
FSSI and VCOSS have been commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services to gather, test, analyse and interpret critical intelligence from a diverse range of front-line service providers working across a range of service areas including disability, mental health, homelessness, Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs), children and families, family violence, aged care, youth and justice.
The “Stories Into Evidence Project” will develop a more comprehensive picture of the service adaptation and innovation that has taken place so far, the contribution (or otherwise) of those adaptations to ‘future state’ goals, and deeper insights into “felt demand” and its implications. The project consists of three complementary Focus Areas:
- Focus Area 1: Embracing Service Innovation will involve consulting with community sector service providers to document adaptations to service delivery and analyse the impact of these adaptations;
- Focus Area 2: Understanding Changes to Felt Demand will involve consulting with community sector service providers to identify changes to service demand during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Focus Area 3: Quantifying Victoria’s charitable sector – data and insights to inform recovery planning will involve an analysis of data from the latest Australian Charities and Not-For-Profit Commission’s (ACNC) Annual Information Statements released in mid-June 2020.
The “Stories into Evidence Project” complemented and built on existing work by the Department of Health and Human Services to evaluate service and practice changes implemented in response to Covid-19.
The Stories Into Evidence Project identified innovations that social service organisations were trialling and a desire to embed these innovations into practice going forward. The Project identified a number of key changes including significant workforce adaptations, the introduction of a range of digital services which provided greater flexibility and access for some cohorts and increased take up of online training options.
The Stories Into Evidence Project noted “increased demand for online education programs during this time, particularly in the areas of financial counselling and job readiness programs.” While organisations reported that virtual service delivery has increased access and convenience for some clients, particularly women with caring duties who may have struggled to attend face-to-face programs, it was not without issues. Some people require more scaffolding than digital training can provide to make the digital engagement effectively. Some organisations have also raised concerns about security risks associated with the technology, especially in relation to children and young people.FSSI0021-F_V_Report_6.0SP-1