Fams is breaking new ground with a study which addresses the role of telepractice in family work.

Fams has partnered with Southern Cross University to launch the study, which stems from the challenges family workers and their clients faced in the 2020 pandemic.

Like so many, NSW family workers had to transition from their traditional face-to-face model to a telepractice model as COVID-19 broke out in early 2020.

The issues they faced remain in the latest lockdown of 2021.

The study was mentioned this week in The Rural. Lead researcher Liz Reimer said there was still a considerable need for face-to-face interaction in the sector, even though telepractice helped to bridge communication gaps.

Fams CEO Julie Hourigan Ruse said telepractice had allowed people from rural and remote areas to access services that were otherwise out of reach. Clients with social anxiety could also develop a relationship and trust with their case workers from a distance.

“Engaging via telepractice is less confronting for some people, compared to being in a visible public space, particularly if there is shame associated with seeking help,” she said.

The research found certain groups, including people with complex disabilities, some culturally and linguistically diverse communities and those experiencing family and domestic violence, struggled without face-to-face support.

“Some workers also noted that telepractice limited their capacity to properly assess a home environment and any safety concerns for both children and adults,” she added.

The Telepractice in family work study: Where it began

Following a series of Zoom-based focus group sessions with the NSW family work sector called “In Conversation With…”, Fams began to collate and release their findings last year.

While necessary to protect the health of Australians, the social distancing policy has substantially changed the way family workers have engaged with clients.

The Telepractice in family work study explores how the early intervention and prevention sector can develop some of the changes to service delivery necessitated by COVID-19 into an evidence-informed, sustainable, and secure model of family work that will result in improved outcomes for families, children and young people.