Sarah's Soundbite: August 2021
Each month as I write this column, I feel disappointment as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a dominant theme. While we expected ongoing outbreaks, I don’t know if we were prepared for the level of anxiety and disruption that each lockdown brings, the lingering mental health concerns, and the underlying sense of uncertainty in our lives. The current sixth lockdown brings all these to the fore.
The disability sector has shown amazing resilience over the past year, and now is the time to again dip into our connections and commitment, as we face the current situation in Australia. Whilst the Delta variant brings new challenges, we are in many ways better equipped when compared with last year. We now have better knowledge about the disease, systems and processes, trained staff, emergency management expertise, PPE and QR codes, access to up-to-date information and access to vaccines (albeit too slowly).
The NDS Safer and Stronger program funded by the Victorian Government has played a key role as a major conduit for information from government to providers, enabled development and promotion of practical resources and supported the collaboration between services which has proved critical to getting through this pandemic.
Our thoughts go out to providers across the country, and especially in NSW who are dealing with the ongoing outbreak of the Delta variant and extended lockdowns. NDS Victoria is working with the other states to share those resources we have available, to support the sector nationally.
To further support the sector with the current lockdown the Victorian Government has a range of resources to communicate about various concerns or restrictions with staff, people with disabilities and their carers.
These are located at resources about COVID-19 and include:
- Financial support for people and businesses affected by COVID-19.
- Poster - 5 reasons to leave home in English and seven other languages
- Isolation and quarantine – extra help and supports
- Mental health resources
Mental health and wellbeing
Caring for our mental health and wellbeing is emerging strongly as a focus in many workplaces. NDS recently hosted CEO of SuperFriend Margo Lydon and CEO of Beyond Blue Georgie Harman in a webinar Strengthening leader resilience and wellbeing. They both advocated for leadership self-care to better support staff and client wellbeing, offering honest insights into their personal challenges and successes during 2020, along with practical actions they instigated to support their staff. Look out for a video of this webinar on the NDS website later this month. You can find useful mental health and wellbeing resources in the NDS COVID-19 Mental Health and Wellbeing Toolkit suited to both personal and workplace needs.
Another major area of focus is on the disability workforce, with lots happening in this space.
There are widespread reports of workforce shortages plaguing our sector. These are not helped by the problematic introduction of the new worker screening NDIS Check scheme which has been an ongoing focus of our advocacy since its introduction. There continue to be reports of significant delays in obtaining approved checks. We were pleased however with the recent extension of transitional arrangements which apply to many existing workers.
Pleasingly the Victorian Government launched Work That Matters on August 4; its campaign to promote disability careers and match providers with new employees. Providers are encouraged to use free campaign resources to promote careers in their workplace, and to post job vacancies on the Jobs Victoria online hub. Employees could be eligible for wage subsidies of up to $20,000. Providers can learn more about the Work that Matters campaign and how your organisation can take advantage of this opportunity at the NDS Recruitment – Finding solutions forum on 17 August.
Good workforce and business planning requires sound data. The NDS annual Workforce Census is an important source of data which NDS uses to direct our advocacy and inform workforce development initiatives. Please contribute to the census by September 3. Each participating organisation receives their own report when the census is complete.
The high number of CALD workers in the disability sector and need for effective communications is another current focus. Our NDS Safer and Stronger team recently ran a webinar about COVID-19 and vaccination communication with CALD workers, and is hoping to deliver face to face Cultural Inclusion workshops later this month.
NDS has numerous useful resources to assist providers to recruit, develop and maintain their workforce. The popular user-friendly Workforce Hub interactive PDF has been updated and the NDS recruitment and retention resources feature short videos and handy tips, particularly directed to recruiting men and young people.
We are hosting several workforce forums over the next few months as we continue to collaborate with providers to address current workforce challenges. Look out for new NDS / SACS workforce webinars coming soon. They will cover topics of change management, managing remote employees and staff retention all in the disability sector.
And on 15 September NDS will host a national Allied Health Forum, seeking solutions to finding Allied Health professionals to work in our sector.
Vale Chris Hawken
Finally, we were all saddened at NDS to learn of the death of our former colleague Chris Hawken who died in May from cancer. Chris was a leader in the disability sector and is greatly missed by all those who knew and loved him. A memorial service will be held on Thursday 19 August 2021, and those wishing to attend are asked to register their intention.
For any enquiries, please contact Sarah Fordyce, State Manager Victoria, 03 8341 4303, submit enquiry/feedback