Shifting concerns as the pandemic progresses

The results of the third COVID-19 community sector snapshot indicate concerns continue to evolve as the immediate health threats of the pandemic abate and the broader impacts of the lockdown response become clearer. Early analysis of the qualitative data reveals changing patterns over time.

Wave 3 of the survey saw the emergence of a significant new pressure point for community sector organisations:

  • Increased demand for services due to new client groups who have not previously been engaged with services.
  • New clients are primarily young people and families who have lost their incomes due to job loss.

The ‘new needy’ include:

  • International students and other temporary visa holders in Australia.
  • Young people and migrants who were more likely to be casually employed (often in industries highly exposed to the effects of the lockdown).

These are the people hit hardest by the pandemic response but who have fallen through the gaps of the Federal Government’s economic assistance package. The increasing levels of concern for these groups across community sectors organisations are reflected in the graph below.

The increase in concern about young people is reflected at higher levels among managers. Frontline workers were only about half as concerned about this group when compared to snapshot two, while managers were three times more concerned. Concern amongst managers in snapshot three was also higher in relation to people who are socially isolated, while frontline workers were a little less concerned. Concerns about those with mental health issues have eased since the previous fortnight.

Concerns have also lessened about some of the groups which were initially expected to be most at risk of not having their needs met during this period. This is partly because of policy responses targeting these groups, such as placing people experiencing homelessness in temporary accommodation through to the containment of the virus and the protection of particular communities (e.g. remote Aboriginal communities). The key concerns being reported now arise not from the immediate impact of the virus itself (although it remains a dynamic situation), but from the longer-term effects of widespread economic retraction and social distancing requirements.

Limitations: There were 121 respondents (49 frontline workers and 70 in leadership/management roles) for wave 3. It should be noted that respondents for each wave do not comprise a representative sample of community sector organisations; nor is the respondent set the same for each wave. The data are likely to be influenced by the types of organisations represented in the respondent sets for each wave.

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