Health and Wellbeing
Health and wellbeing play a crucial role in an individual’s or family’s ability to participate in
society, to work and to achieve satisfaction and happiness. As well as physical health and
having access to medical care, the concept takes in emotional and psychological wellbeing,
too. Many of SSI’s clients come to Australia from areas of conflict and may need support
with both their physical and mental health. Others are living with a disability, and some face
severe social stigma in relation to their sexuality and/or gender identity.
Our long-term goal in this area under our Social Impact Framework is to empower people through improved health, wellbeing and life satisfaction. Our goals in the interim are to support people to understand, navigate and access health and wellbeing services and to maintain improved physical and mental health.
Below are examples of programs that contribute to health and wellbeing outcomes for our clients. Each of the programs below may also contribute to one or more of our other delivery outcomes.
Multicultural Child and Family Program
Foster care involves a carer providing a nurturing home for a child in need who can no longer live with their birth family. The benefits for the child are significant, however there is a risk that they may lose their connection to their original culture if the foster family is not from that culture. SSI Multicultural Child and Family Program is a specialist out-of-home care service for children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds aged 0-18 years. The program provides foster care that helps children stay connected with their culture, language and religion – something that will assist in the development and maintenance of identifying, building and sustain relationships with birth families.
In FY2020, our MFC service worked with 220 children and young people. Some 25 per cent of participants were in care under a restoration care plan goal, seven per cent under guardianship, three per cent were adopted, and 65 per cent were in long-term foster care. Some 420 children have been cared for since the program commenced in 2013.
Key initiatives in this area during the year included the launch of ‘My Life and Me’, a life-story resource aimed at assisting practitioners and carers to record and discuss a child’s journey while in care. The resource aims to capture family traditions and cultural activities and promote children’s interests to positively impact their sense of belonging, identity and connection. Following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, staff also created a timely ‘COVID-19 and Me’ resource which encouraged children in care to describe and make sense of their experience of what was happening. Children in the program said the exercise had helped ease their anxiety.
Another initiative focused on improving the experience of children leaving foster care. Using our newly funded CALD Youth position, we consulted with young people who have turned 18 about creating a new Leaving Care booklet, with the aim of offering young people and carers guidance on effectively managing the transition to independence.
Clinical Practice Unit
SSI’s Clinical Practice Unit provides individualised psychological support and support strategies to SSI clients of all ages, many of whom have backgrounds involving trauma. Clients may seek help for a range of reasons. They may be having difficulties adjusting to new circumstances and a new society or be experiencing anxiety and feelings of hopelessness. They may have acute concerns over the fate of loved ones overseas or be experiencing domestic abuse.
During FY2020, the unit’s three staff provided 640 hours of counselling sessions to clients across SSI’s various programs. The unit also supported case workers across programs to help find appropriate services to address clients’ specialised needs. Clinical Practice Unit staff take a culturally responsive, multisystemic approach to supporting clients. The team also provides support to carers and young people in the Multicultural Child and Family Program.
Health services delivery in Queensland
The Access Allied Health team supports clients through case management, NDIS services and therapeutic supports. It also operates Harmony Place, a community-based organisation that provides culturally sensitive services to strengthen the health and wellbeing of people from diverse cultural backgrounds. Another key program is 99 Steps, a support service for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) individuals and families affected by domestic and family violence.
In FY2020 within the mental health block funded programs, Access assisted 19 participants in accessing the NDIS. Within the Extended Transition Support Program (ETP) program, 31 participants were transitioned successfully to receive supports through Continuity of Supports. Meanwhile, the Refugee Health Nurse (RHN) assisted more than 210 clients in the Ipswich region and delivered 38 health information sessions.
The Health Impact Program delivered 133 occupational therapy or speech assessments, 12 physical, nutrition and health face-to-face programs and 13 online videos.
One evocative case was that of a three-year-old girl born in Australia to Vietnamese parents. While the young girl was living with developmental challenges, her family had trouble accessing appropriate services due to language and cultural barriers. With support from the local team, the child was eventually diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and now receives weekly occupational therapy and speech therapy. She is on her way to realising her full potential.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Access’s social enterprise division developed flexible service provisions, recognising the complexities around delivering cleaning and food handling services. Our response included offering alternative customer and goods and service delivery to ensure the comfort and wellbeing of clients.
Access to affordable nutrition
Sydney’s ongoing housing affordability crisis and high living costs have hit low-income groups particularly hard. SSI, through its social enterprise and low-cost grocer, The Staples Bag, partnered with Mission Australia and opened a new store at the Common Ground residential complex in Camperdown, NSW, in September 2019. As well as providing high-quality nutritious food staples supporting healthy eating habits, the grocer promotes financial inclusion within the broader community. Volunteering and employment opportunities give residents meaningful roles that impact positively on mental wellbeing.
During the first stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, SSI used its Parramatta office to distribute food packages in response to overwhelming demand from individuals and people from asylum seeker backgrounds. In a pulse survey of temporary residents in NSW carried out by SSI, more than 80 per cent of people on temporary visas had lost their job or had their hours reduced in the eight weeks leading up to May 2020. This was far higher than the rate of job losses in the wider NSW economy at the time, which significantly impacted people’s ability to maintain health and wellbeing. Our survey found that 62 per cent of people who sought support during COVID-19 had gone without meals; 52 per cent had forgone their medication; and 50 per cent had not accessed the health services they needed.
We do not yet have measurable data for performance outcomes in the area of Health and Wellbeing. In FY2020, our interim outputs relating to Health and Wellbeing were as follows:
756 clients accessed mental health service;
10,799 information, advice and referral sessions were provided;
90 per cent of Humanitarian Settlement Program clients registered for health checks within four weeks of arrival