Lighten the load

Ensuring loads carried by the supporters are feasible is a vital method of support. The complexity and difficulty of the recovery environment may render pre-disaster determinants of work- or case-loads void. Proactively manage workloads and scale back expectations or if resourcing allows, scale up resources. Other ways to lighten the load for supporters include:

  1. Ensure adequate staffing for project implementation, administration and core-support services (I.T., Communications etc)
  2. Ensure support structures, such as I.T., Communications, H.R., Finance etc., reduce load rather than inadvertently add to it. This requires acknowledgement of the need for flexibility in a non-business-as-usual environment and a responsiveness to the complexity and needs of the recovery context
  3. Adapt and simplify systems and processes to make them less onerous and more applicable to recovery
  4. Find creative means, such as seconding people or enlisting professional volunteers, to assist with tasks such as I.T., marketing, media management, funding applications, reporting, and administration, freeing the supporters up to do what they do best
  5. Take a holistic view when seeking opportunities to lighten the load

-       The individual often felt torn between the needs of families (many related to the disaster) and the demands of their role supporting others. Include families in education sessions, provide them information and extend support beyond the individual to the family to minimise this added stress.

-       Provide practical support to directly address their recovery challenges of those who are affected themselves.

We need a model where there are people in a position to work alongside you and when the phone rings with something they can handle they can say ‘I’ll do it’. It is important that they don’t take over from you but they are there to support you and pick up the slack. Someone a bit detached with some clarity can sometimes be helpful – they’d have to be the right person but those people are out there, that have empathy, are efficient and have amazing clarity. Fiona Leadbeater – Kinglake Ranges

Adapt systems. For example reports – talk through reports on the phone as they are driving and type it for them. Kate Brady – Australian Red Cross

In Christchurch, St John (Ambulance) provided such a service to address recovery challenges for their staff and volunteers. Their ambulance officers were making critical decisions as part of their role while carrying huge pressures relating to their own insurance, relocation, rebuild, zoning or repair dilemmas, along with relationship issues, children struggling to cope and living in substandard housing.  Providing counselling support, though helpful for some, was not addressing the cause of the problem. Expertise was brought in to project manage individual claims; to provide insurance law advice, structural engineering and a myriad of other specialist resources required to navigate the claims pathway.  The service was deemed successful by the organisation and considered great value for the investment.