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Coronavirus: Staying connected across cultures, ages and abilities

What incredible changes we have seen in our world since we last posted on our blog one month ago. In the midst of an overwhelming amount of information about coronavirus, we want to take the opportunity to share briefly with you about some simple strategies we have implemented to support vulnerable CALD communities during this time. 

While the spread of coronavirus and the response of our government has significantly changed life for all of us, it has had a greater impact on those who were already vulnerable to social isolation. Some of these groups include older people, those who have recently arrived in Australia, families with young children, and people with disability and their families and carers.

While recent weeks have seen a welcome surge in information about coronavirus available in other languages, many of our clients face barriers to using technology that would help connect them with this information. These same barriers mean that many of our clients need support to be able to use technology such as video calling to connect with services, their extended families and communities.

Of course, our face-to-face programs have ceased, and many of our clients are telling us already how much they miss the social connection facilitated by these programs. Many of our playgroup families, in particular, are struggling with the lack of structure to their week and opportunity to connect with other families and are wondering how to support their young children through this difficult time.  

In response to these challenges, we have talking with our clients and thinking hard about how we can stay connected and provide support in ways that are genuinely helpful. 

A starting point for clients of our Multicultural Aged Care Services has been to make regular phone calls and distribute information in community languages and Easy English via the post, as these are the technologies with which many of our clients feel the most comfortable. For those clients who are familiar with accessing our website and Facebook page, we have also been using these platforms to share resources for staying healthy at home, such as ‘Stay Standing’ and ‘Chair Yoga’ videos.  

Our Multicultural Children’s Services team have been recording stories and songs in community languages to be shared on our social media sites and via email with childcare centres and our playgroup participants. We are also looking at working with our team of Bicultural Support Workers to call families in their language to see how they are going, and whether we can help them connect with any information or services they may need.

Meanwhile, our Multicultural Disability Services team have been busy consulting with clients to develop a suite of activities for our new ‘ECSC at HOME’ program. We are offering activities such as: dancing, karaoke singing, cooking lessons, nail-polish and makeup lessons, lunch and dinner hangouts, exercise, storytelling, reading, and others suggested by participants, to be delivered flexibly using a range of technology from WhatsApp to Zoom to telephone! This support is aligned to their current goals, or new goals that have surfaced due to COVID-19. We have also made the commitment to contact all of our NDIS participants by phone at least monthly to check in on their wellbeing and advocate on their behalf should they need anything – free of charge. 

These ideas are only a start – and of course we are limited by our own resources. But by asking our clients what would be helpful to them, and by harnessing the language and cultural skills of our workers, we are helping to maintain connections with and between the people who access our services, and to connect them with the information and support they need to navigate through this challenging time.

How could you utilise the cultural and linguistic skills of your workforce to connect with and support those who may be especially vulnerable at this time? We’d love to hear your ideas and comments.

By Ingrid Boland, Social Work Consultant for ECSC

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