Evaluating CatholicCare Wilcannia-Forbes’ response to COVID-19
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, CatholicCare Wilcannia-Forbes – a family support agency in rural and remote NSW – had to radically change the way it worked with clients. The agency converted to remote work procedures for all of its staff.
Who we worked with
CatholicCare Wilcannia-Forbes saw the COVID-19 constraints as a chance to develop flexible practices that enhanced services available before the pandemic. They asked us to help them determine how well their response to COVID-19 worked, and what changes should be retained even after restrictions were relaxed.
What we did
We interviewed staff and clients, ran an anonymous online survey for clients, and reviewed documentation on service delivery adaptations and staff wellbeing.
The evaluation found that, while many remote delivery practices have potential to support clients, not all methods work equally well for all clients. Some prefer online contact for example, while others prefer face-to-face. In general, remote delivery practices worked better for clients receiving individual services while groups were less able to be successfully delivered remotely—although many clients appreciated social media contact.
Staff felt well supported by CatholicCare Wilcannia-Forbes and were highly satisfied with their working arrangements, feeling that (with some exceptions) they were able to deliver much the same level of support during COVID-19 as before. They suggested that remote delivery methods might be more convenient and empowering for clients and were very positive about the benefits of flexible arrangements on their own work-life balance.
Reduced travel between several rural and remote office locations allowed some staff to take on a greater caseload and support more clients. The minimal dissatisfaction that was expressed related to reduced contact with colleagues, or to being part of a program that could not be satisfactorily adapted to remote delivery.
While there is no way of delivering services that is acceptable to all clients or programs, the work done by CatholicCare Wilcannia-Forbes to adapt their practice to COVID-19 restrictions leaves the agency with an enhanced set of capabilities and practices to draw upon for the benefit of rural and remote service delivery.