Now that a long list of Covid-safe precautions is in daily practice, Sydney Community Services’ group social supports for seniors and people with a disability are running again, based out of our Hunters Hill Community Hub.
Seniors’ Hub, half a dozen cultural groups and support for most of our groups of people with a disability are back, sometimes with a mix of face-to-face and virtual meetings.
Precautions include staff training, staff in masks and masks available for visitors, plenty of sanitiser and social distancing according to clear markings. Thorough cleaning of surfaces, restrooms or, in fact, anything that’s used, is done after every use. Unsurprisingly, groups no longer dine at restaurants or share food plates. Meeting outdoors, which enables meetings of up to 20 people, is encouraged.
“The aim has been to keep up as many services as possible, including one-on-one services and flexible respite and we adapted individual services as we’ve gone along,” says Branka Ivkovic, Community Connections Manager.
However, by late March, SCS had to stop social support for groups from meeting because it simply wasn’t safe enough. In the meantime SCS staff kept in contact with clients via digital platforms, friendly weekly phone calls and even visits – sitting and chatting in gardens at a distance or going on a walk. Now Seniors Hub once again offers a daily mix of indoor and outdoor activities and transport in SCS’ NSW Health-approved vehicles.
“It works really well, with lots of markings on floors and one person per four square meters which means that not all clients can fit in the one venue,” says Branka.
“We used to have 25 people or more at once in the Hub, with groups sharing the kitchen too, but we can’t maintain the space restrictions with those numbers. So we found alternative premises and now we often split groups across two venues. Our partnerships with Link Housing and St George Housing have enabled us to use their meeting rooms at other sites.”
Our six cultural groups – a combined Afghan-Iranian group, an Iranian women’s group, plus Spanish, Chinese and two Italian groups – have begun meeting in person, and mostly outdoors. They had been meeting only on digital platforms such as Zoom, Skype, Viber and WeChat during the lockdown.
Five of our eight group supports for people with a disability are running using our Lane Cove premises or alternatives at our partners’ sites. Unfortunately our friends in the Sydney Explorers group are isolating in their group homes, while the venues for our popular Chatswood Social Club, Different Degrees Drama Ensemble and Creative Movement groups are not yet open. Generally their coordinators are keeping groups socialising via digital meetings.
“The team has done an amazing job and implemented myriad changes and new processes, and undertaken training from Federal and NSW Health Departments. But, in practice, it’s a case of constantly being vigilant,” says Branka.
Please see our website for more information on Seniors’ Hub at SCS Community Hub in Gladesville Road, Hunters Hill.
Please see our Disability Services page for more information on group support.