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Assertive COVID-19 outreach into new and emerging CALD communities

Assertive COVID-19 outreach into new and emerging CALD communities

30 August 2021
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A unique COVID-19 support program for diverse Australian seniors.

Summary
Executive Summary A unique COVID-19 support program for diverse Australian seniors During the 2020-21 COVID-19 crisis, National Seniors Australia and Australian Unity joined forces to respond to the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities. Information strategies such as English or other language Call Centres are known to be ineffective for new CALD communities. The response provided was an assertive outreach program that targeted older members of New and Emerging CALD communities, including the Victorian Filipino, Spanish speaking, Afghan and Chin (Burma) communities, and in New South Wales the Cambodian and Arabic speaking communities. The program was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health as part of a more general ‘COVID Wellness Call’ initiative. New and Emerging CALD communities face unique issues to accessing support including language barriers, cultural differences, disrupted formal education, trauma related to war and ethnic persecution, and dwelling in under-serviced regions of Australia. These factors hinder community members’ understanding of Australian systems, so they often do not know which government services they can access for assistance or find it difficult to apply. As a result, community members – especially the elderly – rely heavily on support from family and community leaders. However, COVID-19 further fragmented those interpersonal support networks already damaged in migration, increasing CALD seniors’ isolation and magnifying their other vulnerabilities. This program responded to that crisis of need. A pilot program targeting the Filipino community was trialled from mid-2020 to the end of 2020. It expanded to a full program in five other CALD communities in late 2020-early 2021. It ended mid-2021 when funding was withdrawn. Hundreds of people helped with COVID information, and much more There were two primary targets for the work. It provided information about COVID-19, including help to understand social distancing, quarantining, contact tracing, vaccinations and more. It also provided emotional support addressing seniors’ isolation and loneliness. While engaging with community members about COVID-19, it became clear that many needed other kinds of urgent assistance as well. The program helped senior community members access aged care services through My Aged Care, disability support through the NDIS, income support through Centrelink, and external support to address other needs including lack of housing, lack of food, elder abuse, domestic violence, financial issues, scams, and serious medical problems. Assertive outreach was shown to be an effective method for providing reliable information and support to New and Emerging CALD Communities. This was made possible by the selection of an experienced, culturally competent liaison officer for each community. All liaison officers were native speakers in their community’s language or languages and were recognised, trusted community leaders with years of voluntary service to their community. Training and underlying management and systems of support were also fundamental to the success of the initiative. Despite its modest budget and short, six-month timeframe, the program built direct, interpersonal support relationships with almost 2000 vulnerable members of New and Emerging CALD communities. Most were seniors identified as needing assistance via a range of channels including through conversation at community events, or referred by family, friends, and community groups. The community liaison officers contacted each person in an initial well-being check phone call, with follow-up communications providing ongoing well- being checks and other assistance. As part of that work, over 1500 individual community members were assisted with referrals to external support services to address urgent needs. This report documents the ideas and methods that supported these New and Emerging Australian communities through six months of the confusion and threat of the COVID outbreak. As COVID continues to be a threat to the community the issues addressed here will continue to need specialised attention.
Assertive COVID-19 outreach into new and emerging CALD communities

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