During the COVID-19 alert levels Oranga Tamariki ran a number of rapid ‘pulse’ surveys of key stakeholders to understand how they were managing, what they were doing differently and what additional supports would be helpful.
Surveys were run with caregivers, service providers, Oranga Tamariki social workers and all Oranga Tamariki staff to learn more about what went well, and what could have been better, during this challenging time.
Surveys were offered online only, and links were provided via regular newsletters, emails and websites to targeted groups. Response rates were modest, but responses tended to be fairly consistent.
Providers are organisations Oranga Tamariki and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) partner with to deliver social services. This survey was run jointly with MSD during Alert Levels 2 and 1.
Key concerns were around client wellbeing and inadequate resourcing and funding to support additional demand for services.
Online communications and working from home scenarios had become common amongst providers and most expressed satisfaction with the degree of support from Oranga Tamariki/MSD, but some suggested improved collaboration with Work and Income to support mutual clients.
Oranga Tamariki social workers were asked about how tamariki and rangatahi were coping and what sort of support they needed during the lockdown, and the period following. Social workers told us that devices and internet access were essential for young people to maintain contact with whānau and that feelings of isolation had led to worry and anxiety. There was also concern about missing school and not being able to catch up properly.
Lockdown situations had proven a challenge for some whānau but social workers observed that overall tamariki and rangatahi coped well with life under alert level 4 and benefited from increased one-on-one time with parents and whānau and the opportunity to do a range of activities.
Caregivers were asked about how they and the tamariki they care for were doing, and over 90% of the caregivers who responded said that they and the children they take care of were doing OK or better during alert levels. Most caregivers said they had enough support but some expressed concern about how children in care would cope transitioning back into school routines. Carers also felt pressured if they were working from home while caring for tamariki.
Technology had been important for tamariki and rangatahi to keep in touch with whānau and friends, but some caregivers wanted more communication with their or their child’s social worker during lockdown. Additional financial support for caregivers to help with increased costs for utilities and food, as well as supports for home schooling, was a theme.
Oranga Tamariki staff were surveyed twice, once during alert level 4 and then again during alert level 3. Respondents were generally positive about how well supported they had felt with an overall average score for both surveys of 82%. However, the first survey revealed a degree of concern about the lack of PPE for frontline staff and some frustration with the slow delivery of additional monitors, desks and chairs to support home working. Many respondents acknowledged the benefits of the organisation’s move to digital workplace and the communication from managers and the leadership team. Like many other New Zealanders, our staff were affected by the need to juggle home responsibilities, including home schooling children, with work.
The second survey revealed that a number of staff members were concerned about arrangements connected with a return to working at the office, ranging from office health and safety protocols to travelling by public transport. The change most staff respondents wanted considered as we stepped down through levels was the continued ability to work from home when appropriate.