Corrie’s work has become more important to her clients than ever as she responds to COVID-19 fielding telephone calls from clients and making sure that her clients are up-to-date on the latest information regarding COVID-19. While initially finding it a little bit difficult to adjust to working from home, Corrie finds that taking the time to practice self-care has significantly improved her own health and productivity.
“On an average day I am sitting down a lot more talking with clients over the telephone with enquiries or other concerns. Days, hours and minutes all just seem to merge into one. It was difficult in the first week to maintain any kind of routine, I wasn’t having enough breaks or providing enough regular self care and I was feeling quite fatigued, so in week two I started going on more walks and doing regular exercise in the mornings and throughout the day. Now, I am being more productive working from home, so I guess that’s a good thing.
The most challenging thing I have found for me personally is the huge amount of emails that have been coming out from everywhere about COVID-19 and having to sift through what is important and what isn’t, what is factual and what is not and then helping my clients navigate that as well. A challenge that some of my clients who are very isolated have is not being able to get out and about to interact with people, and while that is a struggle, our clients are very resilient.”
The nature of Corrie’s interactions with her clients hasn’t changed much as a result of COVID-19: face-to-face contact was already limited, given that most of her clients live outside of Sydney in areas such as the Blue Mountains.
However, COVID-19 has meant that Corrie has been providing more direct assistance to current clients and interacting with previous clients to ensure they are OK. She has been directly involved in organising government-funded Energy Account Payment Assistance vouchers for clients who may struggle to pay electricity or gas bills and has still been able to assist clients with actions such as going to the supermarket.
“I had a client who had a panic attack in the first week of restrictions, around going to the supermarket and I was able to put my counselling hat on and help them through that and that was great to be able to help them through that.
We have also been able to reach out to hundreds of other former clients to check on their welfare and to see if there was anything we could do to help, and even though most of them are self-sufficient, they have been really appreciative of the reaching out and offer of support. They were just super pleased to know that we cared enough to call and have a chat.”
Corrie considers other HIV organisations, such as ACON, to have played an important role alongside BGF. Together, they have allayed the initial concerns of clients and provided support to people living with HIV in the community during the pandemic.
“I think that other HIV organisations have also really stepped up to the mark, with ACON for example providing free food. Every HIV service out there is making phone calls and engaging with clients and the clients themselves feel empowered that they are still on everyone’s books and that they have not been forgotten, and that is a great thing. We are all doing our extra little bit to support the community in whatever ways we can.
There have been no major concerns for our clients outside of some initial concerns over access to medication, food and of course the essential toilet paper in the early days. Some clients who are on Newstart or other welfare payments, have been incredibly grateful to have the additional $550 that the government is providing them, but there are concerns about returning to a much smaller payment when this is over. Hopefully, the government will take this opportunity to consider a permanent increase of some kind once this is all over.
Our clients are comforted to know that we at BGF are still there for them and doing our best work to support them.”