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Flattening the curve | Sharing the load | Bushfire grants update

9 April 2020

Flattening the curve

Hi everyone,

I hope you’re staying healthy and dealing with everything that COVID-19 is throwing at us.

We are seeing positive signs in ‘flattening the curve’ as a result of the government’s tightening of border control measures (quarantine of those returning from overseas) and strict physical distancing rules, that are being enforced across the states and territories. These measures have been important to slow the increase in new cases and ‘flatten the curve’ to ease the burden on the health system, as well as on surveillance teams who need to trace and test ‘contacts’ of new cases to limit onward transmission to others.

In the last week we have seen a sustained reduction in the number of new cases each day, so we should all be encouraged by our efforts. The inconvenience of staying at home is paying off as a nation. Our big challenge will be to sustain this behaviour in the months ahead, and encourage others to do the same - until the government can review the best evidence and plan for a phased return to normal life.

Sharing the load

Earlier this week I sent out an email on how COVID-19 is having a significant impact on our untied income streams. I know some of you have come up with great ideas to share the load. I am amazed by all your contributions and how quickly you’ve brainstormed ideas to help keep Red Cross going.

You would have received an email from Adrian Prouse (Head of People and Culture) on submitting your skills assessment. We know that each and every one of us have different circumstances and are dealing with this pandemic as best as we can. Please know that this assessment is entirely voluntary. Thank you for doing all that you do and keeping your spirit up during this extraordinary time. 

Bushfire grants update

The Bushfires Grants Payment team have been working remotely now since 25 March. We know most of Red Cross staff are now working from home, but for the Grants Payment team, that means 49 people across seven different team functions are working in different places to receive, assess, approve and pay the five different grants that are available to support people impacted by bushfires in Australia. 

We also have a team who answers the phones and helps people through the application process, or is making calls to people to talk them through what is missing from their application so that they can receive grants as quickly as possible. This has been a huge effort from everyone in the team to make it work, and their flexibility and innovation has enabled us to continue to deliver this critical financial support without any disruption.

We’ve already seen the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions on people who are already doing it so tough after living through bushfires. People who have lost loved ones, lost their homes or have had their homes badly damaged, or people who have been injured. They are now faced with the challenge of applying for grants without the ability to access help and support from recovery centres, our volunteers on the ground delivering outreach or from family and friends who would normally be able to drop around and give them a hand. Our teams are finding new and different ways to ensure that people are still able to access grants despite these challenges.

Last week we launched the new Rebuild Grant for people whose homes have been destroyed to support them with the early stages of rebuild planning. We have already provided close to $2 million of support in a few short days since this was released.

Our Advisory Panel met last week to understand how we are adapting to the COVID-19 restrictions and were really impressed to hear that we continue to deliver the same level of support in these challenging circumstances. During the Panel meeting we also provided an update on our Recovery Program work more broadly, sharing how our local Red Cross teams are:

  • Working closely with local government recovery teams to determine how best to adapt recovery services for the local context in light of restrictions to movement and gathering brought about by COVID-19.
  • In regular communication with communities to help them apply for grants and share information through local channels.
  • Reaching out to community leaders who they are connected with to check-in on them and to share Red Cross information.
  • Connecting community leaders with local supports and services, as well as information and support being offered through online means from outside their communities.

The work we are doing is challenging; with one of the biggest issues we face being getting much needed financial assistance to people as simply and as quickly as possible, all the while ensuring that it is going to the people who are genuinely entitled to it and not the many fraudulent applicants we have and continue to receive. 

We get greatly rewarded, however, when we receive such genuine thanks from our grant recipients and hear how much difference Red Cross grants have made to their lives.

Sharing some below:

“I just wanted to send my heartfelt ‘thank-you’ to the Red Cross for assisting me with the emergency bushfire relief grants – these monies will go a long way in helping me to rebuild my life. It is wonderful to know that the Australian people care and that organisations like yours step up in times of crisis to pull the strings to coordinate the huge recovery and support effort.”

“Oh you are life saver, I’ve had such bad run just about to give up on everything. I rang back to get the bad news I was assuming. But this has turned my horrible few months around thank you so much for all your help and understanding!”

“Red Cross, simply can't thank you enough! We had already replaced our pump out of our own pockets and I was stressing how I'd go about affording a new battery bank, let alone repair the septic as well. Now, thanks to this help, we can completely replace our batteries with an entirely new bank and still have enough to address our septic damage issue! Totally saved the day and removed a MOUNTAIN of pressure and stress off our shoulders! This means sooooo much! Truly, heartfelt thanks to everyone involved."

“Without the injury grant I couldn’t possibly have continued on with the treatment.  I couldn’t have afforded it. The relief that the Red Cross Injury grant was life changing for me.”

Thank you for all that you do.
Stay well.
Judy