Evidence Centre seminar: October 2020

Published: October 23, 2020

This seminar featured Sonia Sharp and Georgina Gates presenting an evidence scan conducted by Ernst & Young, in collaboration with the Oranga Tamariki Evidence Centre.

Supporting children and young people through COVID-19 and beyond

Sonia Sharp (Partner, Workforce Advisory and Government and Health Sciences Leader – EY) and Georgina Gates (Director, Workforce Advisory – EY) spoke about their research on international responses to COVID-19 for the care and protection of children and young people.

Through an scan of eight jurisdictions, this research investigated how care and protection and youth justice systems had responded to the pandemic, focusing on the practical changes and innovations that services providers and agencies put in place and the impact this had on children and young people, their carers/families, practitioners and service providers.

The research identified insights on the experiences of service systems as they adapted to the implications of the pandemic, a range of common themes in the way agencies had responded and the practical and innovative strategies employed, and identified opportunities for future learning and preparedness for service delivery, as well as use of data and intelligence.

Seminar video

Transcript

Supporting children and young people during COVID-19 and beyond

Sonia Sharp (Partner, Workforce Advisory, EY) and Georgina Gates (Director, Workforce Advisory, EY)

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa. Thank you and a warm welcome to the Oranga Tamariki Evidence Centre webinar today.  It's fantastic to see many of you here today, all with a passion for understanding how we can contribute to supporting our greatest resource: our children and young people.

For those of you who don't know me, I'm Vasantha Krishnan, General Manager of the Evidence Centre for Oranga Tamariki, and I'll be hosting today's webinar.

Today's seminar will have a focus on how international jurisdictions have supported children and young people and their families through this global pandemic and will be presented to you by Sonia Sharp and Georgina Gates from Ernst & Young. 

Sonia is a partner in Ernst & Young's workforce advisory practice, as well as a national lead on public service workforce and COVID-19 response and recovery.  Sonia has a wealth of experience in strategy development, performance improvement, organisational design and complex system change. 

Georgina is a director in the Ernst & Young's workforce advisory practice. Georgina specialises in workforce and service system reform and human services and has worked across child and family services, child protection, family violence, mental health and disability. 

So, without further ado, I welcome Sonia to lead us though this fascinating seminar.

Sonia Sharp

Sorry about that, I was on mute - the classic mistake of this time.  Thank you, Vasantha, for that warm welcome, tēnā koutou katoa everybody, and I'd welcome - am delighted to be here.  I also would like to pay my respects because I'm joining you today from the lands of the Wurundjeri people, of the Kulin nation, and I pay my respects to elders, past present and emerging, and including any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that join us today in the land. 

We are delighted to share with you the findings of our international review of approaches to keeping children safe and well during COVID-19.  

The key message is that we heard that everybody has struggled with this and also that people have found very creative ways of trying to stay connected to families and communities and to identify and notice early signals of harm or distress.

So the scan that we conducted was focused on understanding international responses to COVID-19 for vulnerable children, and I'll talk a little bit in a minute about how we conducted that.  Also establishing a community of interest, because everybody is working through new ways of working, different ways of working, there is a warm welcome to the opportunity to join with Oranga Tamariki to understand, share experience and foster open discussions and we will share some of the insights that we gleamed from those conversations as well.

Can we have the next slide?

So, we did a global scan, first of all.  We looked around the world at everything that was happening then we looked in particular at eight jurisdictions with varying experiences of COVID-19.  So, some jurisdictions that had been -- had many waves or ahead in terms of waves.

So, we looked at New Zealand, we looked at New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, Victoria, we looked at the UK, the US and Brazil and as you see from the graph and the figures here with very significant variation and range in terms of the number of cases and the number of deaths experienced.

Nevertheless, without exception, everybody struggled as they had to go into lockdown and close down services and restrict contact.  Next slide, please.

So, in summary, we found that COVID-19 brought similar challenges to nearly everybody.  There was reduced oversight of children and young people, there was increasingly complex community needs from needing food, struggling -- for some families, struggling with shelter, increased incidents of family violence and stress within the home, there was a strain on service providers and certainly there were budget pressures.  But what we also saw was a very rapid response and a creative response around the care and protection of children and young people, leveraging local networks and community leaders, shifting quickly to online service delivery with use of telephones and smart phones being at the centre of that, creative grassroots practices to proactively support children and families, and I'll pass over to Georgie in a minute and you'll hear about some creative examples of those, for example through welcome packs of food and stronger community connectivity and also the rapid upskilling of staff, so in a matter of a few days in most jurisdictions, whole workforces had to shift their practices to move to a way of working that they were simply not familiar with and they did it remarkably well.

In youth justice we saw a move to greater digital approaches to justice settings and keeping connectivity on people, court appearances, and we also saw a healthy imperative to close facilities quickly, sometimes that was closing to family visiting and other times children were supported in their home and community with higher vigilance.  In particular, a real emphasis on communication and engagement with families.

Intelligence and data approaches, from data reporting and demand forecasting to data modelling, we saw some really smart use of linked data sets as a way of identifying early signs of family distress and we also saw some really good examples of cross-government collaboration and 'soft intelligence' to enrich data sets.

We also saw some interesting practices around culturally appropriate responses with a big emphasis on inclusive and community-led approaches, leveraging community networks and local leaders, cultural leaders, community leaders and faith leaders and also we saw there some varied responses across urban, regional and remote communities, and, again, as I hand over to Georgie, we'll give you some practical examples of what those are.

Five key themes emerged, so in terms of the important features of these responses.  First of all, we heard nearly everywhere the key role of the school and providing care and advocacy and sometimes food and shelter and warmth.  Those places that kept their schools open were an absolute cornerstone for children and young people, we saw increasing use over time of schools with more children and young people attending.  We also saw them as a contact point for care providers, services and those children and young people. 

Connected to that, we saw the importance of community relationships as I've already mentioned, we saw the importance of communication and campaigns, getting information out to children, young people directly and families, tailored for children, young people and culturally diverse groups.  We did see the importance of face to face contact for the most at risk groups and whether that was through doorstep visiting, whether that was through the school, whether that was through community connection, nevertheless, there was still some need for face to face contact and also we saw the importance in linking local government with cross system data sets to enrich the view of families and young people, so that local network of local government combined with state government and all services to come together in a collaborative way to work effectively to support each other to keep children safe and well.

Next slide.

In terms of some of the challenges that we saw, we saw that the impacts around the world have been very, very significant.  So, 22 countries globally reported a 50-100% drop in children and families' access to child welfare authorities during COVID-19, so we saw a significant drop off in connection to formal services.  We also saw a 50-100% drop in violence prevention programmes such as parenting campaigns, online child safety campaigns, and we also saw, again, similar numbers of countries of 50-100% drop in case management services and referral pathways, so generally a picture of a reduction of using formal services.

However, that was matched by an increase in reports of family violence and informal connections, so there were challenges, but the formal processes were not necessarily being used.

In particular, 368.5 million children across 143 countries who normally rely on school meals for a reliable source of daily nutrition were having to look for other sources, and again in those countries that kept their schools open for vulnerable children, what we did hear anecdotally were examples of how children and young people were coming to school because they were hungry.

Next slide.

So, here I'm going to summarise just the kind of like the top ten challenges that emerged from the interviews that we took.

Increased community demand, so although there was a drop in formal use of services, there definitely was an increase in demand.  There were increased risks to already vulnerable cohorts and particularly what we saw almost globally and without exception was an increase in reports of family violence to police.  Continuity of workforce and care, and as particular workforces for particular communities or geographies or cohorts were affected themselves by the virus, then strain on services, and we also saw some really creative teaming approaches across providers to support each other during those challenging times.

We saw an increased impact on custodial settings, this highly vulnerable communities for the spread of virus with immediate concerns about the health and wellbeing of young people in custodial settings and challenges to maintaining social distancing in those context.

We saw the importance of data sharing coming to the fore and where people -- where services or jurisdictions have limited opportunity to data share and to link data sets, they were challenged, whereas where there was established practices for data sharing, it was easier to see early signs and signals of distress where those were used widely.

We saw that where there were not strong relationships between agencies that also created challenges in terms of soft intelligence but also the creation of contingency work forces.

Next slide, please.

We saw the challenges of the lack of oversight and that services had to be very creative about how they maintain contact with families during this period.  We saw budget pressures.  We saw an increase in the use of virtual interactions, so nearly every jurisdiction we spoke to had moved online in some way, moving to online social services including court hearings, but we also heard of digital inequity, so, say for example, here in Victoria in schooling, the Department of Education and Training had to provide 65,000 laptops in a ten day period to children and young people to enable them to maintain contact and also connectivity, challenges in connectivity, so where there's less effective broadband, that also meant that there was digital inequity and this situation just brought that to the fore.

We saw delays in court assessments leading to heightened instability and a back-log to address the recovery phase, we saw a lack in data collection and also a lack of visibility on future needs, so those families that were known to services were able to maintain connection of some sort whereas there was definitely anxiety and concern about those families who became vulnerable who may not appear or may not be noticed until the lockdown restrictions had been reduced and ways of living and learning and caring move back to a more normal rhythm and cadence.

I'm going to hand over to Georgie now who's going to take us through some of the solutions we saw, and I must say, hats off to the ingenuity of our child protection colleagues and colleagues who work in child and family services, because I think you will agree that there was some really creative ways of responding to these challenges.

Georgina Gates

Tēnā koutou katoa. Morning everyone, I'm Georgina, Georgie Gates and I am joining you today from the Bunurong people's nation in Victoria and I would also like to pay my respects to elders past present and emerging and any aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here today across our communities.

Thank you, again, for having us today.  So, I will take you through some of our findings from our research and we really did find that there was some very strong themes and whilst the experiences of many of the jurisdictions that we interviewed and researched were quite different in terms of the trajectory of the pandemic and the sort of variable impacts on the community.  We did very much find that there was some strong themes in the way that they had responded to support children and young people and adapt the way that youth justice services were provided to better deliver that in the context.

So the first thing I'll speak about is some of our findings when it comes to care and protection of children and young people, and as Sonia outlined, we interviewed a range of jurisdictions and researched a range of practices that were in place and we found here a range of really, I suppose, adaptable practices.  Both in terms of the way that service providers shifted to be able to take up some very practical strategies for engaging and maintaining contact with children and young people.  The way in which the -- you know, quite innovative practices and rapid change occurred, particularly in the transition to new technologies as well, and then also a range of new workforce models that were brought in both in terms of the direct social workers and practitioners working with children and families but also the way that services collaborated together.

So, firstly, we very much saw that there were quite significant adjustments to service delivery mechanisms so that in order to minimise risk of infection that -- and protect families and children and young people, in many cases, services adapted to restrict and limit face to face contact where necessary and there were some really good examples of the way in which that was undertaken, so in some jurisdictions they took a very risk-based approach where they put in place a range of options to be able to consider the degree of risk around a particular family and the extent of need and identify whether that family still really genuinely did need a face to face, a home visit, or whether that engagement could still occur through virtual means, and in actual fact there were a range of approaches that were really effectively delivered to maintain that and some really creative strategies to do that in a practical way.

So, for example, we found in South Australia that they put in place some -- a range of approaches to engage with families directly through the provision of food relief and really well packaged hampers both in terms of food and hygiene products and so forth and would deliver those to the home as a way of maintaining contact and assisting the family both in terms of maintaining contact with that child or young person but also providing them with practical support.

We also saw that extended to the provision of voucher -- food vouchers and other forms of relief which would either be delivered to the home or through a local centre which would encourage that family to collect it in a contactless way but still allowed some contact to ensure that the family was coping okay through these times.

As I think many of you would have experienced, there was a very rapid shift to new technologies to enable virtual service provision and we've heard about some really innovative approaches in the way in which families have adapted to that and the way in which practitioners have really shifted their ways of working to be entirely virtual.  So we did find that there were some quite effective approaches whether that be through the use of Zoom or Teams or other platforms to conduct our virtual check ins with families or even family group conferencing and other activities that could all be done virtually.

In Victoria, we had our families, home visits being conducted virtually as well and service providers were really reporting that that was nearly as effective as being in the home and seeing the home in the flesh and getting a sense of the families' activities.  I think the other feedback that we heard quite consistently was that that was actually much more flexible for families and could be better tailored to times of day that suited their needs and also allowed some more frequent contact as well, particularly for young people who receive the virtual forms of engagement really effectively. 

So, we heard in the UK that young people had really adapted to virtual engagement and were much more readily -- much more likely to respond to a FaceTime or other form of connection rather than requiring them to attend a session at a particular time and location and it allowed them to also feel supported in a much more tangible way.

We did -- the other thing that I think was really interesting in the US was around the use of places of trust, and this was -- we saw this in many jurisdictions, we also know that this has been -- really applied in New Zealand as well, across your communities, but in the US particularly, places of trust such as churches or community centres and in many cases for a range of diverse communities were leveraged to maintain contact with families, and in these cases, these places of trust were able to connect with families when other essential services may have been closed, when there are limited range of options in terms of where you could go during periods of lockdown and care and protection agencies were able to leverage this as part of their broader network to facilitate that connection with families and work with those community organisations to understand the kind of health and wellbeing of that family and also be able to monitor risk as well.

I think one of the things that has been the most remarkable has been what we've seen in terms of the way that different workforces have adapted to the change and I'd just like to speak a little bit about some of the changes that we've seen and found throughout our research.

So, I think the first thing to note is that across many jurisdictions there was a need to very rapidly train and upskill practitioners to adapt, not only to new ways of working but also the use of virtual technology, and if you think about it, many of our organisations, government and non-government service providers, often the prospect of digital change is a very long journey but what we've seen quite consistently is a very rapid transition to a digital way of working and although we know that, of course, that doesn't suit every situation and there are many cases where there is a critical need to go and visit the home in person or have that face to face contact, in many ways as I've mentioned, the virtual forms of service delivery were very readily put in place.  I think it's a very -- a strong credit to the practitioners and social workers and team leaders and managers that that was able to be undertaken.

The service delivery arrangements as well is definitely of interest.  We certainly saw a range of strategies that were put in place in quite creatively thinking about workforce models that could better service need throughout this time and that was from the range of perspectives, it was both in terms of making sure that there was sufficient workforce available, if in the event that the workforce itself was impacted by COVID-19 and so from a workforce contingency perspective we saw a range of initiatives to bolster the workforce.

So, for example, in the UK, they instituted a programme called Social Work Together and through this programme they brought recently retired social workers or social workers whose registration had lapsed back into practice to provide a contingency workforce that could be drawn on to bolster and support care and protection services.

Similarly, we also saw some creative approaches to use of volunteers throughout this time and in many cases, partly indirectly due to the economic environment, there were some jurisdictions who found that volunteers were quite -- they were quite a willing coalition of volunteers who were keen to support and be available and we saw that very much in the UK, the US and some of the Australian jurisdictions where a volunteer workforce was enlisted to support the delivery of food hampers and the provision of practical supports and other assistance that helped to monitor risk but also most importantly maintain support and contact for families.

The other thing that I think was of -- quite innovative, and we heard this quite consistently, that there really was a lot of local innovation in the way that service providers worked together and also some structural innovation in the way that services were working together.  So, for example, in South Australia we saw some reorganisation of frontline staff in order to better meet the community's needs and also to protect workers that might have been more at risk from an infection perspective, using a sort of A and B team type model to cater to different needs and also make sure that the workforce was better equipped to work through this most challenging time.

But in Victoria we also saw an innovative approach where a COVID-19 response team model was put in place which was a multiagency team and in local areas, a combination of statutory child protection workers with service providers and frontline social workers were brought together to provide both a really targeted wraparound approach for families and children most at risk but also to provide a bolstered contingency in the event that any one service provider suffered an impact in terms of the workforce and that really assisted to support service continuity.

We might go to the next slide, thank you.

From a youth justice perspective, there were also a range of interesting approaches that were put in place.  I think the first thing that we saw consistently in the youth justice setting was an immediate response to minimise risk and to lock down facilities from a custodial perspective and also to really put in place some strong workforce contingency practices to ensure that the custodial facilities would be able to maintain operations and support the safety and wellbeing of the young people within their care.

Particularly of note as well was the way in which youth justice services also adapted to virtual service delivery, and that was both from the perspective of the young people within custodial settings but also the way in which young people in the community, as part of the youth justice system, were supported to maintain contact and also the way in which that allowed that, you know, strengthening engagement with their youth justice worker and that support throughout this time.

So, in the number of jurisdictions we saw the provision of devices and laptops to young people who were either in custodial settings or in the community and this both served a range of purposes: it allowed those young people to maintain their learning and it also provided them with sources of entertainment where those sorts of things were limited due to lockdown arrangements, and it allowed them to have virtual means of maintaining contact with their families which was really well received in a lockdown scenario.

In terms of the young people in the community, in these cases, there was a much more strengthened approach to engaging with those young people and from a youth justice perspective, once again there was some excellent feedback on the way in which young people had received the virtual forms of contact and actually quite a positive response.  Again, from the UK perspective, for example, they felt strongly that young people within the community as part of the youth justice system had had very positively received the virtual forms of contact and found it very flexible, were much more likely to engage and also much better supported in a more regular and flexible way.

I think the other thing of really strong note was around the way in which there was quite proactive outreach in some cases from a youth justice perspective and we saw in Queensland a really strong approach to working with community organisations to connect with young people and their families in the community, both in terms of supporting that family unit and ensuring they had the practical supports they needed through a very difficult time, but also to support from a behaviour perspective that young person and assist to maintain a focus on diversion and those sorts of things.

The other aspect that I think was quite significant from a youth justice perspective was the focus on the use of data and a strong approach to governance in monitoring the kind of, the operation of the system and the safety and wellbeing of young people.  So, there were some quite effective approaches that we saw to the use of monitoring and data analytics to both monitor a range of indicators about the safety and operations of a custodial setting, but also from a court perspective to really monitor the impacts of the lockdown and disruptions to court processes to get on top of that and ensure that there weren't adverse impacts. 

There were, in many jurisdictions, adverse impacts as a result of lockdown and a slow down of court processes and the shift to virtual courts was undertaken in many cases but conversely in many cases court processes had been put on hold, impacting some young people and their families.

We might move to the next slide again, thank you.

Okay, another area that we looked into as part of our research was also to really understand how jurisdictions had responded from the perspective of a much more tailored approach to specific communities and within this we looked at both indigenous communities and across different jurisdictions but also in terms of migrant communities and we found some variable approaches but also some really interesting innovations and community-led approaches as well.

So, from the perspective of indigenous communities, and we looked at this across a range of the jurisdictions that we researched, we did find very much a very strong focus on self-determination and self-determined and community-led responses was quite critical here and in many cases we saw very good examples of community-led organisations and community leaders stepping forward to play a very active role in both determining the way in which the community would respond to the pandemic but also in terms of supporting and enabling the families and children and young people within their community.

So, I guess what did that look like in practice, so for example, we saw that the Victorian aboriginal community-controlled and community care agency took a very strong approach to the way in which they supported aboriginal children and young people during that time and in this context it was both urban and regional and remote regional communities, and through that put in place both a range of practices in the way in which families would be consistently supported throughout this period but also the very tailored communications and engagement with the community to promote effective practices in terms of health and wellbeing and prevention from an infection perspective as well.

There were some quite different approaches from a communication perspective and we saw some jurisdictions take a very proactive approach when it came to tailoring communications to different language groups, to different communities, so, for example, across Australia there has been a deadly campaign, deadly being a very sort of colloquial word when it comes to the aboriginal community across Australia in terms of how to prevent infection and how to support your family and community through a time of lockdown, and similarly we saw really strong practices across New Zealand as well in the way that your communities step forward to lead a collaborative response and have some very tailored approaches to the way that communities were supported to understand and raise awareness of the pandemic, the impacts that it might have and also the supports available.

I think we did really see as well some quite strong advocacy from community leaders in really making a stand on what was needed to best support their community and working with governments and other agencies to provide those supports, whether they be practical supports that were needed and also the types of safeguards that were needed, so a very strong approach to locking down communities where necessary, particularly in remote locations to minimise access and risk of transmission and working with other agencies to ensure a strong supply and support for other essential services throughout that in a safe and effective way.

When it comes to migrant communities, I have to say that the range of supports available were more variable, there were a range of approaches here which range from the very strong approach to supporting migrant communities through to much more variability and often it was very much impacted by the extent to which those specific communities were -- you know, the types of these are arrangements and other things that were available to those communities.

We did see, though, that there were a range of financial and in-kind supports that were made available to migrant communities, migrant communities being very much impacted by not only the kind of impact on them as a family and often not being able to contact and/or visit family members overseas being impacted in terms of their ability to work or perhaps the range of employment options available or lack of employment throughout this time and also as I mentioned the range of visa arrangements that also impacted the access to support.

So, some of the things that we did see, and these varied across jurisdictions, but we saw relief and assurance for temporary visa arrangements so enabling people to continue on temporary visa arrangements if they were likely to expire or unable to actually travel, emergency funds for international students and options for them in terms of being able to remain within the country and access supports, being able to access their pension or superannuation products at an earlier point to have some funds available, increasing the availability of hours that could be worked under certain visa classes and also a range of supports from a seasonal worker perspective but we do recognise I think that in many countries there was a strong, I suppose, theme of limited supports from certain migrant groups.

We did, though, see that there were, as the pandemic progressed, there was perhaps a stronger focus on a provision of communications and targeted engagement to four migrant communities in a range of languages and tailored to different literacy levels as well, and innovation in the way that they were used through a range of channels, whether that be around flyers and posters in certain locations, the use of the web and social media and also leveraging community networks to promote really key messages from a health protection perspective, but also in terms of the supports available for families and children and young people during this time when in many cases migrant communities may struggle with access to critical services and also may struggle in terms of understanding or having the accurate information in their language or in a trusted way to understand how they can best navigate through this time.

I think we did see some very strong advocacy from community organisations and community leaders across migrant communities and that was both in terms of supporting and raising awareness for across the community, both in terms of the actual, the nature of the pandemic and the way in which they could keep themselves and their families safe but also helping those communities shift to virtual forms of contact and replacing religious and cultural gatherings with virtual forms of contact and also really proactive door stopping and outreach for families who have particular vulnerabilities or were known to be at risk and working very closely with care and protection agencies to support those families as well.

We might move onto the next page, thanks.

So, I think one thing that was -- that we did see that was particularly, I suppose, creative and innovative was very much around the way in which many jurisdictions quite rapidly stood up or leveraged existing functions that really supported them to understand what was going on with the children and young people within their care or known to be at risk during this time and this took a range of forms but in many cases we saw that agencies very quickly stood up options to monitor a range of indicators to understand and monitor risk and need and be able to have a more accurate view of demand for services, and that was both at a national level and a subnational or a state level and also at a local level.

I think in doing that as well, we found that there was a range of quite great practices in the way that a kind of national level and state level bodies then collaborated with practitioners on the ground and local service providers to gather genuine soft intelligence about what was going on with the families and communities within -- known to them -- and within their local area and that allowed a very strong two-way connection, so that not only were the indicators being monitored but also that they were drawing on the actual on the ground knowledge and innovations in terms of the way that those communities were being supported and the innovative practices that social workers and practitioners were applying to maintain contact and have a more true understanding of the kind of risk and need and vulnerability across different family groups.

But some of the indicators that I think were typically used were very much around both from reports of concern and notifications to child protection, they also leveraged data on domestic and family violence, visits to accident and emergency, known other risk factors such as mental health and disability, drug and alcohol use or offending as well as known chronic health conditions and other vulnerabilities to infection and we then also saw the use of pulse surveys of practitioners and caregivers as well as staff to identify needs and understand impacts and we know that in New Zealand that there was some really effective ways to gather that intel through surveys as well and also in the UK that there was some very sort of systematic ways put in place to gather that on the ground intelligence and bring that up to a national level. 

For example, I think one example of this that was quite effective was in South Australia where they put in place a vulnerable persons board which allowed them to monitor the impact of the pandemic on children at risk and their families and they drew on a range of those data sources that I mentioned but also a range of more real time data sources as well to kind of, on a weekly basis, assess risk and need and be able to understand where they might need to target their efforts.

Similarly, in the UK, we saw the National Vulnerable Children's Board come together in a much more frequent way, I think previously it had been a monthly board that reviewed lag indicators.  Throughout the pandemic, that Board then was elevated up to a weekly and bi-weekly activity which then brought together a range of national data from -- that drew on those local intelligences up to the national level to maintain overall visibility of at risk families and young people and worked much more closely with local government and local practitioners to gather those insights.

And then I think from a custodial perspective, there were also, as I mentioned before, a range of those effective approaches put in place which, paired with really strong governance, allowed for very proactive monitoring. 

I think one thing we did see though that was most interesting here in certain local authorities in the UK was the use of predictive analytics and we also saw this in Brazil as well where not only were they drawing on sort of our known and typical indicators of family risk and need but also used a range of indicators about financial stress, unemployment and other factors to be able to gauge when they might expect a family to come into future distress, and this allowed a very targeted approach at a family level and to be able to say, well, we might expect that this family is at risk of homelessness, even in eight weeks' time, and we need to target some very proactive supports here or it's likely that as this family is known to child protection, these additional indicators are telling us that we need to provide some much more targeted supports.

Okay, next slide, please.

I'll just turn back to Sonia now to talk through some of the final reflections and insights that we heard from our network of jurisdictions that came together to share their experiences through a community of interest.

Sonia Sharpe

Thanks, Georgie.

So, I think one of the really compelling insights that came out of the community of interest was that very much people are located in the now, responding to the immediate challenges and pressures of the pandemic response rather than shifting to the perspectives of what's next and what might lie beyond and certainly not thinking yet of evaluation and how they might be able to gauge impact. 

So just to summarise then, through the community of interest, we heard that no matter where people were in the trajectory of the pandemic for them, and of course, we had people who were going through maybe their second or third wave as well as those people who were just experiencing the early days of the viral spread, despite that difference in trajectory, the journey was so similar around the world.  Very similar experiences, similar responses to proactively support children and family and similar concerns, the -- again, the kind of remarkable agility of the services in government, service providers, community and practitioners across the care and protection ecosystem with people rapidly mobilising and developing innovative and creative and very virtual ways of staying connected and had transitioned to virtual service delivery really effectively with plenty of examples, as you heard from Georgie, of local innovation.

There was a trend in reduction of reports and definitely genuine concerns about increases in other forms of family risk and hidden impacts, particularly thinking about babies and young people who were nearing adulthood, some of those core cohorts seen as at greater risk of not being noticed or not being connected with and we also heard as well  of concerns around families where there was family violence in the home with everybody being at home how hard it was for adults, for mothers or parents experiencing harm themselves and their children to actually make contact safely.

There was a major concern that second waves and the post-pandemic impacts are yet to come and a sense that there would be an increase, a further increase in demand and impact becoming more visible over time, this -- a sense that we haven't seen the real impacts of this pandemic yet, we will only become aware of them in the longer term rather than in the now, and that there were signs of financial stress, mental health and other impacts that, again, would continue to merge.

In youth justice, as you've heard, a strong and swift response with integrated governance had worked well and also what we heard, we heard this in youth justice and we also heard this in care and protection, that the move to virtual approaches to connection had actually worked better for some families and increased and improved connectivity.

Similar signs of strength and engagement with families, community service providers and strong governance and a place based, local based drawing on all of the resources of local communities including those, the usual suspects but also those who might be a little bit unusual came to the fore.

And finally, and for you as a community of people who are deeply connected to valuation, lessons learnt will be critical to figure preparedness but as I mentioned, what we definitely heard from the community of interest is a recognition that most jurisdictions are only at the very early stages of considering lessons learned, in fact, what we saw was in New Zealand, you're ahead of that trajectory because you're thinking deeply already about what differences this makes, how can we differentiate between the impact and effectiveness of different strategies, what do we need to do to prepare better for the future.  Many jurisdictions are simply not there yet, they are just coping with the day to day managing the pandemic response and not yet progressing to that important evaluation.

Final slide.

What we also heard from the community of interests and also the scan were some key questions that lie ahead for us to explore.

Understanding what changes and responses delivered greatest impact for children and young people.

What changes will be retained going forward and what changes present opportunities for future evolution and transformation?  Certainly, we are working with a lot of organisations at the moment who are just taking breath and beginning to think about the transformational shifts they want to make going forward.  What have they learnt that works better and differently?  So Telecare being an example of that, and what are the things that they haven't tried but would like to try going forward?

What are the most significant challenges and how can these be overcome in the future, particularly as we become aware that the impact of the pandemic is likely to be with us for some time in the future, most predictions are a minimum of the next 12 to 18 months until some form of vaccination or long term management strategies can be firmly embedded, so this is with us, these challenges are with us and some of them we don't yet know.

And then fourthly, what are the key lessons learned that inform preparations for future pandemic events?  Because we know that we are likely to experience similar challenges if not this pandemic it will be COVID-20 or 22 or 30.  So, let's capture that learning and prepare ourselves well.

I'll pause there and we'll open for questions and discussion.  Now, we've got a Q&A function in the Teams live event, so if you look to the -- there's a box on the right hand side with a little question mark in it.  Feel free to add comments, share your own observations and experiences and open the conversation.  We'll pause a couple of minutes to allow you to add your comments.