This is the third COVID-19 update from WACOSS, and we are committed to providing the WA community services sector with crucial information and high level resources at least once a week, until the pandemic subsides.
Content from these updates will be posted on the Community Services Resource page on the WACOSS website.
On Thursday this week a meeting of community service sector peak organisations was held to discuss the coordinated approach in our advocacy and practices in response to the pandemic. Representatives from several Government departments joined the meeting, and we are pleased to have this line of communication open with the State Government, and will continue to work with all peaks and Government to ensure the sector is well-informed.
Today WACOSS wrote to the State Government making a number of recommendations on behalf of the sector. Read a list of these recommendations here.
In addition, we have raised the issue that community service contracts should not be penalised if they are unable to deliver all their contractual obligations due to COVID-19. The State Government have assured us that we will receive a clear communication about this very soon.
FOOD DELIVERY TO COMMUNITY SERVICES
A recent halt on food delivery services by supermarkets (particularly Coles and Woolworths) is directly impacting childcare centres, homeless services, disability and child protection group homes, women’s shelters and other residential services including mental health and AOD services.
Coles and Woolworths have ceased these operations due to overwhelming demand, together with the challenges simply keeping their supermarket shelves stocked with panic buying and hoarding.
WACOSS is working directly with food relief and recovery services Foodbank and Second Bite to engage with the supermarkets to prioritise essential community services.
We note that some residential and care services have a direct relationship with food relief providers. Services affected may wish to organise food delivery through them, enabling you to get food delivered, possibly even at a better price.
These services do an incredible job supporting the most vulnerable in our community, but are struggling with increased demand and reduced volunteer numbers during this crisis. We encourage you to spread the word and help out if you can.
Woolworths also have a Priority Assistance Service with their online orders where an individual or service can identify as vulnerable. We recommend this service as an option. It's understood that Coles are looking into establishing something similar.
There have been reports that services are sending staff to supermarkets to buy directly, only to come up against restrictions on the amount of food items they are able to buy. If you are doing this in the interim we recommend that you take an official letter stating you are providing an essential service and should be exempt from food purchase limits, and engage with a store supervisor or manager to expedite food purchase. Having your CEO ring ahead and talk with the Manager may also help.
There have also been reports that some individuals living with a disability who do not have identification like a Commonwealth Health Care Card to prove their disability are not receiving home deliveries. An official letter or email from a service provider or a call to a store manager may assist.
In the meantime, WACOSS has raised these issues with the pandemic coordination unit within the WA Government and shared this information with other States, who are facing similar issues. Larger organisations with direct purchase agreements may be unaffected by these problems. We will continue to keep you updated as this develops.
For more information you can reach Second Bite State Manager Lyndon Nilsson, via 0437 228 470 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Foodbank WA CEO Greg Hebble via 08 9258 9277 or email@example.com.
The Australian Government have responded overnight to the sector's advocacy about childcare funding.
The Department of Education, Skills and Employment today released details of financial support for the child care sector to minimise the impact of COVID19. This is a grant program and requires an application from child care services. Full details can be found here.
COVID-19 MEDIA COVERAGE
Today the Australian Council of Social Service has called on the Federal Government to support the community services sector through the coronavirus outbreak, which is failing to keep up with the demand, at a time when communities are relying on support from NFP organisations.
NEW RESOURCES AND INFORMATION
UnitingCare West have kindly shared the Communications Pack that they prepared for their stakeholders, and Life Without Barriers also provided some examples of their internal communications and organisation protocols.
Child Australia has shared resources from a webinar held yesterday.
We will continue to update a dedicated page on our website with relevant resources and information as it becomes available.
ADVICE FOR ABORIGINAL COMMUNITIES
On Thursday 19 March 2020, the WA State Government provided new directions to help protect the health and wellbeing of people living in remote Aboriginal communities.
WACOSS OFFICE CLOSURE, STAFF WORKING REMOTELY
The WACOSS office will be closed to the public starting from Monday 23 March, and staff will be working remotely. We are in a position where it is feasible for staff to work remotely to stop the unnecessary spread of COVID-19. If you have a scheduled meeting with someone at WACOSS, it will likely still go ahead, and additional options will be provided for you to dial into the meeting via your computer or phone. Staff will be available via email and you will be able to reach someone via 08 6381 5300, or through the Contact Us form on the website.