Member profile: Jo Bennet and Bridget Kinch from Micah Projects

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Jo Bennett is the Quality and Risk Manager and Bridget Kinch is the People and Learning Manager at Micah Projects in Brisbane. By responding quickly to the COVID-19 crisis, Jo and Bridget said it has enabled the organisation to continue to deliver services.

Micah Projects is a not-for-profit organisation committed to providing services and opportunities in the community to create justice and respond to injustice. When the news first broke of the potential impact COVID-19 may have on the organisation, they were quick to respond.

“In mid-March, we had a meeting to plan out the impact some of the impending restrictions would have on our organisation. We mapped out the whole organisation – 230 staff.”

Part of this was ensuring that all teams had access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) early.

“PPE kits were provided to individuals and families who our teams came in contact with. The kits have COVID-19 information and access to basic essentials like hand sanitiser, soap and basic hygiene equipment,” Jo said.

Micah Projects have been constantly updating policies and procedures and developing new COVID specific work instructions in line with government protocols to ensure staff can provide services safely to the people they support throughout the pandemic. A plan was developed that covers four areas on how to deal with different scenarios at each stage of the pandemic – preparedness, initial response, large-scale response and recovery.

“The impacts from COVID-19 will be long term, so this plan reflects how each area of the organisation will continue to not only respond, but also recover and move forward,” Bridget said.

Micah Projects have kindly shared their updated Guidance and Framework Plan, which you can view here.

Throughout this pandemic, the safety and wellbeing of staff and clients has been paramount for the organisation.

“We have offices set up so staff are clear around how many people can be in different spaces based on social distancing. We have a daily workforce check in done by all team leaders to ensure we are aware of who is working from which location each day. This makes it simple for us to monitor and be clear about where everyone is.

“We have split the larger teams across a number of sites so if someone in the team does test positive, the whole team won’t go down,” Jo said.

From a service delivery perspective, front line staff have been adaptive.

“We’ve had to change the way group work happens. The teams use group chats and video conferencing for people who have access to technology. The teams have been creative in group work, including how to make toys at home with the kids.”

The organisation has also offered additional support for staff, including offering people at high-risk of contracting COVID-19 the option to work from home, and paid leave to those directly impacted by the pandemic.

“We offered paid pandemic leave for staff. This is for anyone impacted by isolation, like staff returning from travels overseas, or unwell people who were required to be tested for COVID-19. We paid their regular hours.

“It also covers people who need to look after loved ones in their care – their children, or elderly parents they live with.”

Additionally, staff members who were struggling with the impacts of the crisis were given the opportunity to take some time off if they needed.

“When it was first all coming out, and every day things were changing, people were understandably anxious about it. We gave people the opportunity to go home and have a couple of days to recalibrate. We were happy for them to take time off if they needed.

“This helped. For people that have continued to find it difficult to cope with what has been happening, we have given a lot of flexibility. We are all so different in how we cope – some love the challenge, some struggle with change and the fear of the unknown.

“Everyone deals with it differently,” Bridget said.

Jo and Bridget also highlight the importance of making sure staff feel connected.

“Staff need to feel supported. For staff working from home, their team leader connects with them twice a day, morning and afternoon. For people working from different sites, we have been making sure they keep in touch and connected via Zoom, Facetime or calling someone.

“We have had an organisational Zoom meeting, where a number of people across the state connected leading into Easter. This helps with the feeling of being a part of something bigger and not so isolated in our roles. We do a whole range of different things to ensure all staff are feeling connected,” Jo said.

There are silver linings out of this experience.

“We are learning lots of other ways to stay connected – not just face-to-face. We are learning how to stay more connected with our regional staff as well.

“Some of things we are doing now will be ongoing. There are some real benefits that have been introduced, including the ability to work from different locations, flexibility and knowing where staff are.”

22 April 2020