The current COVID-19 landscape has posed extreme new health threats to vulnerable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities throughout Australia. Communities already struggling with limited access to services are now physically isolated, more than ever before. The necessary government travel restrictions are preventing the Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network (ICAN) from providing essential financial counselling and literacy outreach services into the foreseeable future. These challenges presented ICAN with an opportunity to change how it delivers its services to remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and provided an opportunity to re-think our service delivery design.
Thanks to the financial support of the Department of Social Services, Ecstra and IFM investors, ICAN is now in a position to enact our ‘Reconnect’, remote service delivery strategy. The strategy combines community partnerships, technology, communications and streamlined data management to ‘Reconnect’ with the remote communities we serve throughout North Queensland, Cape York and the Torres Strait Islands.
COVID-19 has provided an opportunity to re-think our service delivery model through the pandemic and beyond, explained ICAN CEO, Aaron Davis. “Like many organisations, our team has embraced the use of video conferencing services like ZOOM, Teams and Skype,” said Mr Davis. “By regularly using these video conferencing services, our eyes have been opened to the possibilities of developing a new remote financial counselling and capability service delivery style, that we hope will improve engagement and outcomes.”
Ecstra Foundation CEO, Caroline Stewart supports this initiative, saying “Ecstra’s focus during this crisis is to ensure that community members have continued access to the financial support services they need. ICAN have pivoted quickly and impressively. The Reconnect model uses ICAN’s strong local partnerships and technology to offer alternative service delivery.”
IFM Investors Executive Director of Responsible Investment, Chris Newton, commented, “ICAN is exactly the sort of community service organisation that we are committed to supporting, particularly during these challenging times. The organisation has demonstrated a strong capacity to innovate and adapt to the needs of the remote and vulnerable communities it serves. We are pleased and humbled to support ICAN to change its ‘Reconnect’ phone service to a toll-free 1800 number, which will enable greater access to financial counselling services for Indigenous clients facing financial stress.”
“The simple act of changing ICAN’s call centre number to a 1800 service has the potential of improving Indigenous client access by 105%,” said Mr Davis. “Our old 1300 number was great when 96% of homes used a landline, in 2020 this same figure now applies to mobile phones. You can’t seek phone financial counselling if you don’t have money for the call.”
“Reconnect is another great example of when government, philanthropy, industry and the community sector come together in response to a community crisis”, said Mr Davis. “The positive outcomes of our ‘Reconnect’ strategy will far outlast this current COVID-19 situation.”