Kindness wins in Warwick, where unpaid carers work overtime
“I”M ALWAYS a helper. To be helped was uncomfortable.”
The refrain from Warwick mum Emma Lenz is one too common for many Warwick residents who turned to family and friends for extra care when coronavirus lockdown was at its peak.
According to new Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) research, one in eight provided unpaid care to a vulnerable person outside their household because of COVID-19, and around three in five people provided this care on at least a weekly basis.
The most common assistance was outdoor errands such as shopping.
Ms Lenz originally set out to be this carer for her elderly neighbours.
“I know one of our neighbours doesn’t have internet, so I just let her know I’m there for her to knock on my door anytime,” she said.
A lot of families helped around our neighbourhood — they went out of their way to connect at times.”
However, when Ms Lenz broke her wrist during the middle of the pandemic, she was also lucky enough to see the other side.
“Every time I needed to get groceries someone was there to take me or in Aldi, there were always people who would load my car,” she said.
“I even had one friend take me to Beaudesert and back. Warwick really is a fantastic example of community spirit.
“(Coronavirus) actually gave me a closer bond with my friends and my neighbours.”
While state incentives such as the Care Army were set up, many turned to family — both blood and spiritual for their aid.
At Warwick Uniting Church, daily check-ins were part of the new normal with their elderly congregation, according to Margaret Wells.
“In Warwick, the situation is a lot of us don’t have families in town, they leave to go to school, go to university or live elsewhere,” she said.
It meant locally, more than trips or shopping, those most vulnerable simply wanted connection.
“I just made a call on an elderly lady who is 94 and she had the front door unlocked, she couldn’t hear me …she’s vulnerable but her neighbours were also there, just keeping an eye on her every day,” Mrs Wells said.
With disability services closed, coronavirus also meant a further 23 per cent of Australians needed to increase the level of unpaid care within their household.
After Peter Stacy’s son Leigh’s five day job at the Endeavour Foundation was put on hold in April, Mr Stacy had to scramble to adjust Leigh’s NDIS income so that time would be covered by support.
It was something Mr Stacy was unsure Endeavour’s other 40 staff members had been able to do.
“They would be in the same set of circumstances to Leigh and what his NDIS plan entailed. It would have meant they had to use unpaid volunteers to keep them safe,” he said.
“There were a number of people who had to get extremely creative for their young people during that time”
Mr Stacy was quick to acknowledge those extra-mile adjustments had not been unlike every other resident during this time.
“With the disability support sector, the group of circumstances may be different but no greater or less to the rest of the community because we are a part of the community,” he said.
“It is just one example of the sacrifices people have had to make.
“The only difference is that most disabled people are unable to advocate for themselves with same degree of clarity as others to ensure their needs are met.”