Remote social services good for some

Research has found telepractice can bridge the social services gap for some, but there are limits.
Research has found telepractice can bridge the social services gap for some, but there are limits.

Children and families have been able to access critical social services remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic but some groups still find barriers in the lack of face-to-face support, new research has found.

Southern Cross University research commissioned by child protection advocacy body Fams examined the experiences of workers and managers delivering pandemic-era social services via telepractice.

Lead researcher Liz Reimer said the study uncovered a wide spectrum of perspectives on the benefits and drawbacks of these services remotely.

"Is telepractice going to replace the in-person experience altogether? No. But it will definitely bridge the gap when workers can't deliver services face-to-face," Dr Reimer said in a statement on Monday.

"While telepractice is a powerful tool that helps clients in many different ways, there is still a considerable need for face-to-face interactions."

Fams chief executive Julie Hourigan Ruse said telepractice had allowed people from rural and remote areas to access services that were otherwise out of reach. Clients with social anxiety could also develop a relationship and trust with their case workers from a distance.

"Engaging via telepractice is less confronting for some people, compared to being in a visible public space, particularly if there is shame associated with seeking help," Ms Hourigan Ruse said.

The research found certain groups, including people with complex disabilities, some culturally and linguistically diverse communities and those experiencing family and domestic violence, struggled without face-to-face support.

"Some workers also noted that telepractice limited their capacity to properly assess a home environment and any safety concerns for both children and adults," Ms Hourigan Ruse said.

Australian Associated Press