Sheena Broughton - Community Visitor, Residential Services

Safeguarding during the pandemic

Broughton SheenaSheena Broughton is a Regional Convenor (Volunteer Team Leader) of the Community Visitors (Residential Stream) Program.

In 2020, when Melbourne went into lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, OPA's volunteers were unable to make face-to-face visits, and conducted all visits by phone or video.

"I was a keen supporter of the remote visiting initiative, despite the obvious limitations, as I did not want Supported Residential Service residents and staff to think we had abandoned them," Sheena said.

I have been heartened by the overwhelmingly positive response from proprietors and staff to our calls - they genuinely seem to appreciate the contact, and our concerns for the welfare of both residents and staff.

The focus of our calls evolved over the course of the pandemic - from the difficulties with food and other essential supplies that were an issue early on to asking if any staff work across different facilities, to visitor policies and the balance of allowing appropriate care/access to family and friends for residents with keeping everyone as safe as possible. The stricter lockdown put further pressure on some residents who struggled to adhere to the restrictions, especially due to a lack of activities.

We want to be able to rely on staff answering our questions honestly, but we have to be mindful that without face-to-face contact, and the ability to review documents, our oversight function may be compromised.

I think (and hope) that our regular interaction with staff to inquire how everyone is going, and to acknowledge the toll the restrictions are taking will benefit the residents in their care."