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Centacare delivering services differently

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From keeping young people in emergency accommodation entertained to supporting single women who have given birth to babies during the coronavirus restrictions, Centacare Catholic Family Services has been continuing to provide services to the most marginalised in the community.

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Centacare executive manager Megan Welsh said all support services remained open and accessible but “they just look a bit different to comply with keeping our clients, workers and community safe”.

“Due to COVID-19 we have had to be more resourceful and innovative in how we continue to provide a service to the young people we work with,” Ms Welsh said.

“For our young people in supportive tenancies in the community we have been providing support through phone contact, home visits in the back yard and dropping essentials to their doors.”

Young people who have nowhere safe to stay are still able to access emergency accommodation through the Outer North Youth Homelessness Service.

Centacare has also been sharing information with young people it works with around COVID-19 and ways to keep safe and healthy during these uncertain times.

She said Centacare’s partnership with food rescue charity Oz Harvest had been “a blessing” during this time. Delivered to the office twice a week, the team makes up packs for clients and do a non-contact drop off to their homes to ensure clients and their children have access to nutritious food.

“Carlow Place, a 24/7 residential home, also gets delivered a wide variety of foods from Oz Harvest which is incorporated into the weekly meals that are prepared on site for the young people,” she explained.

“This also provides young people with an opportunity to learn about meal planning and cooking. COVID-19 has given us more time in the daily schedule to engage the young people around their independent living skills such as budgeting, nutrition and cooking.”

Ms Welsh said the majority of the young people Centacare worked with were concerned about COVID-19, especially its effects on the more vulnerable in the community and were thankful to speak to a worker about their concerns.

“Some are enjoying the use of phone contact as they feel more comfortable talking about difficult subjects over the phone rather than in person,” she said.

“This increase of engagement has been an unexpected positive of social distancing.

“At Carlow Place we have had the challenge to keep eight young people entertained when they have been feeling confined.

“Daily engagements such as recreational activities, support and education have been disrupted by COVID-19, like everyone this has been a big shift in routine for the young people. We have been trying to keep the activity level up at Carlow Place with lots of basketball being played, cooking, games and a daily activity planner to keep the boredom at bay.”

Hannah Place has had several new born babies during the coronavirus restrictions. Hannah Place provides accommodation and therapeutic support to young women who are under guardianship or have child protection concerns and are pregnant or parenting. Ms Welsh said it had been difficult for staff to manage social distancing and helping a new mother with all the care a baby needs.

“We have still found ways to support the young women and their babies in such an important time for mother and infant attachment,” she said.

“The young women have felt more isolated, however some socially distanced activities have been planned by using the outdoors such as walks with their children so that the young mothers can still connect to the small community at Hannah Place.”

A worrying trend for Centacare’s Domestic Violence Unit has been the reduction in calls from women.

Executive manager Kara Piltz said the measures introduced to respond to COVID-19, such as social isolation, may have increased the risk of domestic violence for some women.

“With perpetrators working from home, women have reduced capacity to safely contact a service,” she said.

All Centacare domestic violence services continue to offer emergency accommodation, counselling and safety planning.

“Our staff are skilled at providing this support over the phone and there are various apps and websites that assist us to stay in contact with women,” Ms Piltz said, adding that 24 hour support was also accessible via the Domestic Violence Crisis Line and 1800RESPECT.

In terms of referring women who were seeking help, Ms Piltz said they were still able to access and offer emergency accommodation.

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