A partnership between

Western Sydney Community Forum and Western Sydney University

Interviews with agencies in Western Sydney to collect and analyse data that clarifies the impact of COVID-19 and support needs in relation to staff/workforce health and safety, service continuity, and business operations.

This information will inform practical strategies to support service delivery to people experiencing vulnerability, the topics for live streaming sessions, and information to government and stakeholders for service and public policy during COVID-19 management.


Impact Analysis Findings

The Impact Analysis was completed from late March to early April 2020. A total of 44 agencies participated through in-depth telephone interviews with Western Sydney Community Forum.  Important and valuable information was collected.  Western Sydney University undertook a thematic analysis of these interviews to identify key trends and themes relating to impact due to COVID-19.

The findings of the research enabled us to:

  • support agencies to minimise service disruption to the communities of greater Western Sydney – particularly those who are most vulnerable to crisis,
  • establish practical strategies and services as well as inform priorities for information dissemination,
  • inform and shape advocacy priorities to decision makers where broader representation is required, and
  • provide information to government and stakeholders for service and public policy during COVID-19 management.

Snapshot of Respondents

Key Emerging Themes

  • Confusion and communication issues both on behalf of community and clients in not knowing where, how and when they can access support; as well as amongst service providers in relation to uncertainty and/or lack of clarity in terms of government funded contracts.
  • A strong desire for consistent and concise information and guidance from all tiers of government in respect to new and emerging guidelines eg attendance at schools.
  • Mental and physical health concerns amongst staff including but not limited to: working long hours, negotiating time off, limited access to/sharing of resources due to home-schooling and/other household members’ need for the same resources, lack of privacy and compromised digital/cyber security.
  • Mental and physical health concerns amongst community and clients including but not limited to: isolation; domestic violence; homelessness (particularly of youth); increased consumption of alcohol in homes; family tensions; mental health and potential risks for suicide; lack of access to medical services amongst the elderly due to low to no adjustment to technology; lack of representation of the sector with little or no advocacy for community groups and vulnerable populations.
  • Increased usage and reliance on technology with corresponding challenges including but not limited to: the need for functional IT equipment, software and training to work from home; inequitable access to hardware, software, data and lesser capacity to navigate online systems amongst some sections of the community.
  • Underemployment and potential job loss were contributors to escalated anxiety and stress. Of key interest, were the sentiments raised by respondents about the anxiety and stress caused by thinking about the impact of service disruption or discontinuity on their clients as they dealt with vulnerable populations who “fell through the cracks” and were not a focus of the economic responses that seems to be propelling public discourse and policy directions. “I was saying I suppose the government’s support package doesn’t really go far enough. There are a lot of people who will not get support, who need support…”
  • Impact on service continuity with instances of slight, to considerable change to meet emergency requirements of clients. For example, focusing on provision of vouchers, home activity kits for pre – school children, delivery of food packages, online support groups, phone counselling which were not funded before but currently comprise the bulk of the focus for emergency responses by the respective organisations.
  • Re-purposing staff, including resorting to utilisation of casual staff in the absence or loss of volunteers. This could be both positive (addressing the concern of underemployment) and negative (escalating costs spent on casual staff versus volunteers).

Tracking the Impact

The context continues to shift quickly. Western Sydney Community Forum is continuing to work with agencies to track change over time and to maintain awareness of the ongoing impact of COVID-19 for organisations and the communities of greater Western Sydney.

A survey, based on the findings of the initial impact analysis, has been developed and issued to a large sample of agencies across greater Western Sydney, to monitor change as it emerges. To keep abreast of changes, the survey captures the same information and will be re-issued on a regular basis.