Supporting caregivers through COVID-19

Published: April 22, 2020

Over the first days of the country’s response to COVID-19, Oranga Tamariki social workers created thousands of emergency support plans to help caregivers get through. As we prepare to move into Alert Level 3, they will be getting in touch with caregivers again to understand their changing needs and update their plans.

Plans focus on needs

The COVID-19 support plans focus on what the caregiver needs right now to help them manage. They cover things like access to groceries, medication, and resources to entertain tamariki at home, as well as looking at who in the caregiver’s bubble could care for the child if the caregiver becomes unwell or needs a break.

“Caregivers are finding it valuable to talk through their specific needs and understand what help is available to them,” says Denise Fox, Caregiver Recruitment and Support Operations Manager – North.

“Some of the most common needs we’ve responded to so far have been assistance with accessing baby care supplies, and increased internet data packages for those on limited plans,” she says.

“As we prepare for Alert Level 3, we’ll be focussed on understanding what the needs of caregivers, tamariki and households will be over this time, and working closely with our colleagues to support these identified needs.

“When it comes to education, we’ll be helping caregivers support tamariki to continue with distance learning within existing or expanded bubbles wherever possible – and ensuring they have the support they need to enable this,” Denise says.

Making a difference

Rachel says she’s heard a number of stories where a COVID-19 Caregiver Support Plan has made an immediate difference for a caregiver.

“One caregiver was having difficulty obtaining enough baby supplies, like nappies and formula, due to her rural location and the limited supplies at the supermarket when she was able to get there," she says.

“This was highlighted in her support plan, and the Caregiver Recruitment and Support team was able to quickly research home delivery options and order supplies for the caregiver. These were delivered to her home within a day or two – resulting in a very grateful caregiver and a happy baby.”

In another case, a caregiver caring alone for a tamaiti who has epilepsy needed a prescription refill. Due to the child also being immune compromised, the caregiver was fearful of taking him out to the pharmacy to collect the prescription.

“This need was identified in their caregiver support plan, and the social worker was able to negotiate with the pharmacy for home delivery of the prescription,” Rachel says.

Plans will continue to change

The COVID-19 Caregiver Support Plans have built on the work already done to create the support plans all caregivers are entitled to under the National Care Standards.

“These COVID-19 plans meet the real-time needs of caregivers as their circumstances have changed – which is exactly what Caregiver Support Plans are designed to do,” Rachel says.

“The majority of caregivers will again need their regular support plans updated once the COVID-19 event is over, as it is highly likely there will be significant changes in their circumstances as a result of the measures.”