IHC Membership Update - July 2020

I last touched base with IHC members a few days after we went into Level Four lockdown.  Now three months later we have emerged feeling proud of what we achieved together as a nation but also aware that for many it was a challenging time, the impact of which will be felt for some time to come.

 

IDEA Services

During lockdown IDEA Services staff and Managers worked tirelessly to keep people and staff safe. We were pleased that their efforts were rewarded by no-one testing positive for COVID-19. This is a record to be proud of particularly when we read about how vulnerable people in ‘residential care’ environments have been in other countries.

Before lockdown IDEA Services had signalled the need to review how it delivered its Vocational Services. Members attending the Annual General Meeting in September 2019 received a presentation that talked about the need for a review. The longstanding funding shortfall and the need to respond to the changing expectations of families and people with intellectual disability were the main reason a review was thought necessary.

During lockdown our day services were forced to close and like the rest of us people retreated to home and stayed in their ‘bubbles’. Some went home to families and joined their bubbles. We learned a lot of things during lockdown. Some, particularly those of retirement age enjoyed the slower pace of life focused around the home. They enjoyed not having to get up early to join the van run to the day base. Others felt cooped up, missed their families and friends and couldn’t wait to get out and about again. But we were also reminded that what happens at home and during the day are linked and you cannot make changes to Vocational Services without impacting Residential Services. So a decision has been taken to extend the scope of the Vocational Services review to include Residential Services. The consultation process has now started and feedback will be open until Monday 24 August 2020. No decisions regarding next steps will be made until all feedback has been reviewed by the IDEA Services Board.

We will be providing opportunities for you to discuss this through local forums and will include focus groups for the people we support. Information on these will be provided at a later date.

We are encouraging people to provide online feedback that will help manage and collate what we expect to be a substantial amount of feedback. If you would like to provide online feedback then please email considerthis@idea.org.nz and we will arrange for a special link to be emailed to you. Alternatively, you can request a copy of the consultation document and email feedback, or post your feedback to IDEA Services Limited, National Services Review, PO Box 4155, Wellington 6140; or via your local IHC Association.

 

IHC Programmes

This is what we call the team responsible for IHC's programme of charitable activities, funded entirely from fundraising revenue and with a focus on all people with intellectual disability and their families. This is the team who do the Advocacy work, support the community Volunteering and Liaison programme, oversee the Library and do the Fundraising. Over lockdown the teams work ramped up and a number of new initiatives were put in place to address the growing need for support and information that emerged as a result of the pandemic.

Awhi at Home

This is a Facebook page that was set up to provide support and information to parents with disabled children. It has been immensely popular with a reach of nearly 200,000 at last count and is IHC’s most successful vehicle for engaging with young families in recent times. Facebook is where young families engage and feel comfortable. They are most active between the hours of 1pm and 3am and appreciate sharing practical tips and strategies with other families . Videos where families interview the 'experts' and ask questions that matter to them have proven popular. We are now thinking that what started as a COVID response will have a longer term future as part of a more comprehensive resource and information hub. Visit the Awhi at Home Facebook page www.facebook.com/awhiathome/.

Wecare.kiwi

This was a collaboration with Carers NZ and was set up get carers the help they needed over the lockdown. Calls came through the Carers website or 0800 number and where appropriate passed on to the IHC Volunteer and Community Liaison team. The IHC team put people in touch with the help they needed and more often than not provided a friendly ear. Over 350 people were supported by the team over the period of lockdown. Post lockdown we are thinking about how we can continue to provide this type of support and link people to the volunteers and resources in their own communities. We have always thought that having an 0800 number with real skilled people at the other end could make a difference to many people. This is what our Volunteering and Community Liaison team will be looking at.

Association Emergency Fund: Awhi Community

IHC Associations met online every two weeks over lockdown. In the early days they raised concerns about the adequacy of resources in the IDEA Services homes given the day bases were closed and about the difficulties communicating online with their sons and daughters. In partnership with Joan Cowan and IDEA Services we set up an Association Emergency Fund: Awhi Community, with most Associations agreeing to contribute $10,000. We raised $255,000 and supplemented by some other grant money have been able to boost the activity resources in houses and begun the huge task of providing tablets for people with intellectual disability to use to link with their friends and family. We also topped up the data for some people living independently who were struggling with the increased costs of staying in touch. Thanks to the Associations for helping out in this very practical way.

IHC Emergency Appeal

We also went out to the public with an Emergency Appeal - something we have not done for a long time. However, we felt that tough times are often toughest on the most vulnerable and were keen to raise additional funds to support the IHC’s COVID response. The Appeal has been successful in raising $279,000.

IHC Advocacy

Our Advocacy work, particularly the demands for personal advocacy increased over lockdown and continue to be greater than usual. Families with more than one disabled child and those with a single parent were under intense pressure with little, if any relief.

People living independently in communities become a more vulnerable group particularly when they don't have phones or data to connect with others or ask for help. IHC Advocacy partnered with People First and the Personal Advocacy and Safeguarding Trust to answer calls through an 0800 help line.

We are now turning to the election and working with other groups in the sector on the key issues we to want address with candidates. When we reflect on the last three years we struggle to identify how the lives of people with intellectual disability and their families are much better. Peoples health status still is less than what the rest of us expect and their access to work, the level of their income and their experience of school is not what it should be.

We will be asking members what their election 'asks' are. Watch out for the survey link. We will provide a short information sheet to guide discussions with local politicians and for use at election events.

Membership

Over lockdown we did attempt to make contact with our members. Some of the Associations helped out by phoning their members. The Programmes Team staff also pitched in and made phone calls. Altogether we talked to around 600 of you. We enjoyed making contact and heard some great stories making us realise how important our members are. Once you realised we were not asking for money many of you also appreciated the call. When we last did a survey a number of you said you would appreciate more communication from us. We know this is important and intend to look at how we can improve our communication.

It's membership renewal time - you all should have received these, either via email or post, please get those renewals back to Danette. If you haven’t received your renewal, email her at membership@ihc.org.nz or phone on 021 244 2697.

 

Accessible Properties

Our offices have reopened and everyone is back working in the office as their primary place of work.

Work can for the most part now be completed as usual, but we are remaining vigilant at Alert Level One – ensuring we use contact tracing processes and keep up good general hygiene. We know that there were some really positive benefits about the way we adapted and changed our work practices during the lockdown, and we continue to work through what we can take away from that going forward.

Our Property Team is working hard to prepare homes that became vacant over the lockdown period for re-letting, and our Tenancy Team has recommenced all transfers, placements and inspections. Excitingly, this includes letting 24 public housing homes at a new apartment development in Auckland. In May our teams provided homes for 35 families in need of a secure warm dry place to live.

We are now completing all repairs and maintenance works and our Property Managers are working hard to progress programmes, including across the IHC portfolio, that were negatively impacted during the lockdown period.

We continue to work closely with IDEA Services to ensure work now progresses, communication channels remain open and our staff and contractors maintain good health and safety practices at Level One.

All construction projects have recommenced on site. We are excited to report that our Housing Development team has delivered a number of public housing homes since the end of the lockdown. You can see the details of these on our website www.accessibleproperties.co.nz/about/projects.

 

Finally , I would just like to say how incredibly proud I am of IHC and how everyone volunteers, staff, Managers, the Executive team, the Board and Associations stepped up and did their bit to ensure the health and safety of the people we support and extended that support beyond IDEA Services to all families. I know that when it matters, IHC will do what it takes to help out. I am proud to be a member.

If anyone has any questions or concerns do not hesitate to contact us at membership@ihc.org.nz or 021 244 2697.

Kind regards

Barbara Rocco
Chair, IHC Member Council
IHC Board Member