Australian Community Workers Association Australian Community Workers Association

Survey results on the impact of COVID-19

We surveyed our members to find out how their work life has changed because of COVID-19. Thankfully, most practitioners have kept their jobs.

While even one person losing their job is upsetting we are pleased to see, however, that the profession has not been one of the hardest hit. When times are tough, the skills and expertise of skilled community workers are invaluable.

Many community workers are now working primarily from home which is a significant shift for a people centred profession. Organisations have introduced new service delivery models, and this means our members have had to develop new skills and adapt their practice approaches quite quickly.

ACWA members work across a range of settings, but the majority of the respondents for this survey were from: mental health services (17.36%); disability services (16.67%); family and children’s services (13.19%); and aged care (13.19%).

Employment before and after COVID-19 restrictions

We asked members to report their employment status before restrictions were introduced.

Paid employee – 77.40%
Self-employed – 15.07%
Volunteer – 4.11%
Unemployed – 3.42%

We then asked members to report their employment status after restrictions were introduced.

Paid employee – 68.49%
Self-employed – 15.75%
Volunteer – 4.11%
Unemployed – 8.22%
Stood down (employed but not working) – 3.42%

Work life after lockdown

For the members who were still working or volunteering, we asked if their weekly hours had been affected. Respondents reported that they were:

Working the same or similar number of hours – 51.37%
Working less hours – 19.18%
Working additional hours – 15.07%

We also asked these members if their work set-up had changed. Respondents said they were:

Still required to attend their workplace – 42.62%
Working remotely – 35.25%
Working remotely but on call to attend client’s premises – 14.75%
Have always worked remotely – 7.38%

How members are faring

We gave our members a chance to share, in their own words, how their work and lives have been affected. Many of the comments touched on the dual role with which practitioners are now faced – helping people experiencing adversity while also being in a vulnerable position themselves. Some members saw the additional stress already taking a toll on their mental health and those of their co-workers.

But our members are also optimistic about what the recovery and rebuilding stages of the pandemic could mean for Australia’s social protection and support systems. This presents a unique opportunity for advocacy and change. Campaigns, such as those to raise Newstart from $40 a day, are already ramping up.

When it comes to what practical support would be helpful to practitioners right now, tools for supporting clients experiencing COVID-19 related hardship and mental health resources, came out on top.

You can browse our COVID-19 resources page via the Members’ only area and we will be incorporating the feedback into future additions.