Returning to face-to-face visiting
Lyn Wood is a Regional Convenor (Volunteer Team Leader) of the Community Visitors (Mental Health Stream) Program.
"After months of endless emails, phone calls, appointments, changed appointments, fruitless phone calls, dodgy conference calls, Zoom meetings, failed Zoom meetings…… it was such a relief to just go back to calling into the facilities we visit.
Remote safeguarding has been just that- while there have been some positives, overall, the experience has been – well - remote. Scrolling through and analysing Incident Reports is no substitute for actually seeing and talking to the people we are working for and whose interests we are serving.
One of the most striking features of going back has been the warmth of the welcome we received. In the Mental Health stream, the consumers are constantly changing in these settings, so there was no reunion with them as such. However, those we did meet were keen to chat and learn about the role of Community Visitors, as well as valuing the opportunity to give feedback to the facility via us as outsiders.
Staff were so pleased to see us and eager to talk. In one PARC facility, consumers were actually in the process of having their COVID vaccinations, but the Nurse Unit Manager, who plays a very hands-on role, insisted on taking time out to talk and show us around.
Staff were also keen to tell us of their frustrations with the ‘system’ - of chronic staff shortages, inadequate funding, lack of resources – all of which are compromising the quality of care they can provide. One had the sense they were looking to us as another voice to lobby for the improvements they would like to see.
There have been some obvious changes in 12 months. Gardens have become established and new buildings and renovations are advanced. Other places are shabbier and need a coat of paint. Overwhelmingly though, returning to face-to-face visits has reinforced the sense that we are both a necessary service and one that is well accepted and embedded in the Mental Health system."