Some aspects of his work have changed, but Michael has remained an active participant in his client’s lives throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Actions such as going to the supermarket with clients, for example, now take longer due to the need to maintain social distancing measures. Ensuring the health and wellbeing of his clients has also taken on a different form with the increase in Telehealth and online consultations, as well as making sure they stay on top of any new health and safety information.
"Another change is that I have had to ensure that my high needs clients are engaging with their Doctors and Telehealth providers through the available online technology. I’ve had to work with clients quite a lot to remind them of the importance of social distancing and other COVID-19 rules. One challenging role has been keeping clients up to date with the constant flow of changing and updated information from the Government, Health sector and the HIV sector."
The various limitations and changes presented by COVID-19 have not stopped Michael and other BGF caseworkers from continuing to make significant and meaningful contributions to the community. Their work was critical in ensuring that household items, such as a washing machine, furniture and books, donated after the passing of another BGF client could be offered and distributed to other clients in need of them.
"The biggest successful outcome for one of our clients, which was only made possible because BGF is still out in the community doing the work that we do, came about one day when the nephew of one of BGF’s long term clients notified Glenn, BGF’s Community Support Programs Coordinator that his uncle had passed away and that he had left a lot of quality household contents and appliances that he would love to donate to any BGF clients in need.
An email was sent to our client services team with information and images of the items, so that they could be offered to any clients who may have a need for them. Senior BGF caseworker for AOD, Sylviane, myself and Glenn were then able to book a large van and arrange the collection, cleaning and distribution of these items to some of our clients in need. Items included everything a refrigerator, washing machine, clothes dryer, TV, DVD player and a whole range of other furniture and household items. Some of the smaller items such as books, CD's and DVD’s will be made into small gift packs which other support workers and caseworkers will distribute to their clients.
I think BGF is doing a great job for our clients during this time and we are an invaluable resource for our clients. We’ve been forced to look outside of the box and find new ways to deliver the services our clients need and that has been a great thing to be a part of. The feedback I am getting back from clients has been nothing but positive."
Michael himself finds that the collective change brought on by COVID-19 upon everyone has in fact brought him and his clients closer together. His clients look to BGF for various needs, especially the need for social interaction. While times are different right now, Michael finds that BGF has not changed in that it remains a vital resource for clients through the online programs it offers and through its ability to keep clients socially connected, something more important now than ever.
"My relationship with my clients has strengthened because we are literally all in this together and that has encouraged greater connection between us. We’re there to support our clients in all the usual ways, but we are also able to provide additional advice and guidance relating to COVID-19. Clients are very reliant on us, not just for the additional practical support we are providing during the COVID-19 pandemic, but most importantly for social interaction.
Social isolation and stigma have such a profound effect on many of our clients, that it is even more important than ever to keep them socially engaged. BGF online programs such as the book club are a great way for our clients to stay connected to community. It would be great if all community organisations had more online programs available.
In the early days of the pandemic, our clients' major concerns related to access to food and other essential items. Now their concerns are the same as yours and mine, and that is wondering when life will go back to normal, or at the least the new normal, whatever that may be."