Over 100 people have joined Fams on Tuesdays for the return of our weekly conversations with the TEI sector for updates and connection during the ongoing pandemic lockdown. We thank Anthony Shannon, DCJ Director Early Intervention, Volunteering and Youth, for joining us to take questions.

Again this year, there is concern that many vulnerable families are still without devices and data to allow kids to participate in remote learning. We heard that schools (through Department of Education) are responsible for providing devices to their students, but organisations should consider if its appropriate and possible to repurpose some of their funding toward pre-paid data for their clients.

If you think this approach is something that would benefit families you are working with, please talk to your District CPOs so they are aware of local changes in service delivery to meet demand. We must do all we can to ensure that COVID-safe education is available to every child.

There was continued discussion about the Authorised Worker Confirmation Letter recently issued by DCJ to TEI funded providers who are funded to deliver intensive services to children, young people and families. The distinction from 2020 being that under the current pandemic restrictions, not all TEI work is essential.

This decision appears to sit at odds with the fact that many organisations continue with their doors open and are overwhelmed with demand to provide food relief and material aid like EAPA vouchers. With federal government income support nowhere near the same levels as during 2020, more people are turning to TEI services.

While Fams welcomes the announcement last week by NSW Government of additional funding to Foodbank and OzHarvest to ensure the supply of food, these organisations rely on other local community organisations – TEI funded organisations – to connect those in need with the food donations.

The line drawn by DCJ between TEI organisations being funded to provide community coordination functions, but the TEI Program not funding material aid is unhelpful. Fams has escalated this within DCJ and will continue our advocacy on this issue.

Then, last Wednesday, the NSW Premier, when announcing the four-week lockdown extension, was very clear that only “critical workers” should be working outside of their home. This is a shift from essential workers.

The Prime Minister also announced extended income support packages for NSW workers and businesses impacted by the extended pandemic restrictions. Find more information here.

Despite this new financial support, we are hearing that there are barriers to completing the necessary paperwork. The limitation of documents only being able to be uploaded electronically or faxed is causing increased number of people in communities across Greater Sydney to be attending local services for assistance.

The challenge we face now more than in 2020 is that in order to beat the Delta COVID-19 strain, we must all do all we can to limit movement. We must limit the movement of our workforce. We must limit the movement we are creating in our communities by keeping our doors open. We must be acutely aware of the Public Health Order restrictions to limit movement based on specific geography across Greater Sydney, rather than actively searching for an exemption for our work.

We must all make tough decisions, not only about whether a service is critical, but if the physical movement we are encouraging in community is critical. Once again, the community sector is being forced to adapt traditional service delivery models to unpredictable circumstances over which they have no control. You proved during 2020 it can be done, and you will successfully do it again now.

Fams