Voices from the COVID-19 Frontline Report
Findings and recommendations about how we can minimise COVID-19’s impact on Victorians experiencing disadvantage.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying isolation restrictions have had an unequal social, health and economic impact on people facing disadvantage.
Given the Brotherhood of St Laurence’s (BSL) unique role in working with people and communities across the life spectrum – children and their families, young people, as well as adults and older people, including those with a disability and people from multicultural backgrounds – we sought to understand and unpack how a pandemic can further exacerbate financial and social exclusion. Amplifying their voices is our contribution to the public debate.
This insight series and its recommendations aim to inform future policy-making, community service sector delivery as well as the public debate whilst illuminating:
- How COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting disadvantaged communities;
- Ways that communities are utilising their strengths and/or how government could further harness their assets; and
- Insights we didn’t expect as well as verification of themes already canvassed in the media.
COVID-19 Listening Tour
As part of our COVID-19 Listening Tour, we conducted consultations with 300 of our service delivery staff to learn from them and program participants about the impacts the pandemic has had. We sought to hear both the negative impacts as well as the positive ways in which communities harnessed their strengths and resilience. We feature the direct voices of the people who receive BSL services who, through their first-hand accounts, illustrate the key themes. We conclude each chapter with policy, program and/or practice recommendations to address the issues raised, as well as highlight how communities can be better supported in the recovery.
Voices from the COVID-19 Frontline Report
Chapter 1 – Background
This chapter goes into detail on the research project’s aims and methodology.
Chapter 2 – Cross-cutting insights
This chapter details the five main findings cut across all demographic communities - the different experiences of lockdown and the restrictions, mental health issues and hopelessness, the digital divide’s uneven impacts, gaps in communicating COVID-19 information and the impacts of time for various demographics.
Chapter 3 – Employment and economic security
This chapter details the experiences of people in our employment, women’s small business and financial inclusion programs. In particular, we examine findings relating to people seeking asylum without a safety net, the impact of the increased JobSeeker rate (as well as adding nuance to the question about whether it acted as a disincentive), newly unemployed people who turned for support with budgeting, how women’s financial independence has been affected by additional caring responsibilities, and the long-term solutions young people will need. If you’re a data nerd, you’ll get your dose in here. We also share the stories of two of our participants – Athula and a couple Mohamed and Zara - as well as analyse some of our quantitative data around insecure work.
Chapter 4 – Families and home schooling
This chapter details the experiences of the children and families we work with, in particular, their experiences with and impact arising from the pressures of financial insecurity, home-schooling and the vulnerability of children out of sight from professionals. We also share the story of Fay who benefited from our virtual parent coaching program to navigate home-schooling.
Chapter 5 – Young people
This chapter details the experiences of young people1 during the pandemic, in particular the impacts on their education, training and employment pathways. We also share the story of one of our youth participants, Gabriel, about the impact of the Coronavirus supplement on his Youth Allowance.
Chapter 6 – Multicultural communities
This chapter details the experiences of the multicultural communities we work with. In particular, touching on the lack of a safety net for people seeking asylum and messaging about COVID-19 safety or financial supports to those with limited English, the isolation of newly arrived women and the positives which have arisen through the resilience and strength of multicultural communities. We also share the stories of our participant, Athula, one of many families seeking asylum living in our community without a safety net.
Chapter 7 – People with disability
This chapter details the experiences of people with disability we work with. In particular, it touches on how the digital divide impacted on their ability to engage in virtual services, isolation arising from lockdown restrictions, difficulties of home-schooling children and the positive developments arising from more inclusive employment options that opened up as everyone began working from home. We also feature Tina, who has a hearing impairment, and shares reflections on how her workplace has accommodated her disability during the pandemic and her hope for more inclusive workplaces going forward.
Chapter 8 – Older people and aged care
This chapter details the experiences of older people and those in aged care who we work with. In particular, we touch on the impact of COVID-19 on carers as elderly patients were released from hospital, how some struggled accessing virtual support whilst others thrived on it and the anxiety C19 provoked for older people and its follow on impacts we need to be aware of.
"The point is not that everybody is equally vulnerable. This crisis is not the great leveller some claim – poor people will become poorer, those with insecure work will become less secure, those already sick will suffer most. Like every crisis, the virus simply makes visible what was already true."Sean Kelly, The Age, 8 April 2020