Amid a gloomy outlook, an unexpected benefit of the pandemic includes a rise in the number of younger people volunteering and positive changes to the NDIS scheme. An assessment of local COVID-19 needs and how community organisations are positioning themselves to meet them was presented at an online Rotary meeting last week by Mayor Jennifer Anderson.

Rotary clubs from Ku-ring-gai, Sydney and the UK tuned in to hear the findings delivered by the Mayor and Council staff. One unexpected result was an increase in younger residents volunteering particularly at the onset of the pandemic, due to unemployment, reduced work hours or working from home. Conversely, volunteer groups have seen significant falls in the number of older residents participating because of fears of catching COVID-19, underlying health conditions or volunteer groups no longer meeting.

Churches and scout halls are among those experiencing loss of income from hiring out their venues to small businesses such as fitness instructors, tutors, local markets and dance classes. As a result, some organisations have had to reduce services and their level of social engagement has decreased substantially over the past six months. Disability support providers have reported some positive changes to the NDIS scheme in the wake of the pandemic, including a 10% additional payment to providers, extension of NDIS plans to 24 months and allowing clients to cancel services without charge if they felt unwell.

Many organisations reported switching to online workshops, meetings and therapy sessions in an effort to keep connected with their clients. Ku-ring-gai Council has partnered with a number of organisations to provide online support which can be accessed on council’s Life online pages.