UNITINGCARE Victoria and Tasmania agencies marked National Volunteer Week earlier this month by thanking volunteers for their dedication in delivering services throughout local communities.
The week ran from May 9-15 with the theme Give Happy, Live Happy to celebrate and explore the research that shows volunteers live happier and healthier lives.
Over 4000 volunteers support UCVT agencies and Wesley Mission Victoria, while 600 people volunteer for Uniting AgeWell and many more donate their time throughout Uniting Church schools.
Volunteers work in a range of different settings including emergency relief centres and back office administrative work.
Elham Arvan is just one of them.
Elham was referred to UnitingCare Geelong’s Grovedale agency by a local recruitment company to further develop her skills and meet new people.
From writing cheques, processing payments and managing accounts Elham says she enjoys the varied role.
“I enjoy working with numbers and getting a taste of what it would be like to work as an Accountant,” Ms Arvan said.
“The team are very friendly and have welcomed me with open arms.”
While volunteering at UnitingCare Elham is looking for paid employment.
“In Iran, I worked as an Accountant for a couple of different businesses. I find the role is much the same here in Australia,” Ms Arvan said.
Chief Executive Officer Des Younghusband said it takes a special type of person to be a volunteer.
“At UnitingCare Geelong we have volunteers from all walks of life, who share an enthusiasm for helping those in need,” Mr Younghusband said.
“Elham has proven to be a great addition to our finance and administration team. Volunteers are the lifeblood of our organisation. Without them we wouldn’t be able to provide practical assistance to 5,500 locals a year who experience financial and personal hardship.”
Jordan Miller, 26, volunteers at Kildonan UnitingCare as a mentor for the Youth Mentoring program since 2013. It came after he saw an advertisement looking for people to work with teenagers and build a young person’s confidence by being a supportive role model.
“It seemed like something that was very worthwhile,” Jordan said.
Jordan was paired with a 13 year-old teenager who is living in residential care after experiencing family breakdown.
“He had been moved around quite a bit and chose to couch surf with his friends,” Jordan said.
“I got to appreciate he had to deal with a lot for someone his age.”
Jordan aims to meet with the young boy once a fortnight to encourage him to make better choices and boost his self-esteem.
“Young people in his situation don’t have a lot of people they can turn to,” Jordan said.
“I have worked with people in similar situations and it really does impact you.”
It’s estimated 90 per cent of young people who are mentored have a more positive view of the future while 71 per cent increase their school attendance.
The Youth Mentoring program has seen many young people work with influential role models who have gone on to further education.
Jordan, who is studying his Masters of Social Policy at the University of Melbourne, says he has always had an interest in helping vulnerable young people.
‘Volunteering gives me a purpose and allows me to make a difference in people’s lives,” he said.
“I’m happy I volunteered to be a Youth Mentor in my local community.”
From 2014-2015 Kildonan UnitingCare has matched 23 young people with Youth Mentors as a way to give them direction and guidance at a pivotal time in their lives.
Jordan has this message to anyone who would like to become a volunteer.
“If you have some time to devote to young people and are willing to make a commitment, it is definitely worthwhile,” he said.
WESLEY Mission Victoria has welcomed the Andrews’ Government’s large and much-needed commitment to supporting vulnerable children and young people in the 2016 budget.
“The $168 million commitment, as part of the Government’s response to the Royal Commission into Family Violence, will make a positive difference in the lives of our state’s most vulnerable young people,” Wesley Mission Chief Executive Officer Paul Linossier said.
“We welcome the commitments to strengthen home based care including a $34.2 million boost to foster care that will support a state wide recruitment campaign and provide for increased training for carers. Victoria experiences a shortfall of more than 300 foster carers every year and we desperately need to attract and retain more carers to provide more safe and stable homes for young people.”
Mr Linossier also acknowledged the $35.9 million to increase the safety of children and young people living in residential care.
“We support the redesign of residential services to meet the needs of this most complex and disadvantaged group of young people. Transforming these services into a more intensive care and treatment model will lead to more personalised support and better outcomes for young people.”
The initial commitment of $572 million over two years represents a strong and unprecedented investment in addressing family violence and will improve the safety of women and children.
“As a provider of homelessness services, Wesley sees significant numbers of women and children escaping family violence. This investment will increase the support options available and we welcome the difference that this package will make.”
“Wesley Mission Victoria looks forward to continue working with the Andrews Government to support and empower all Victorians to improve their lives.”
UNITINGCARE Australia’s National Director Lin Hatfield Dodds who has headed up the organisation since 2002 has decided to move on.
Lin has been appointed to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet as the Deputy Secretary, Social Policy.
During her tenure, Lin has led the growth of UnitingCare Australia’s capability and influence in policy, advocacy and political engagement.
She leaves a legacy of an engaged network with a shared identity in the Uniting Church and a shared commitment to its mission of hope, justice and opportunity for all; a network prepared and able to work together for the common good.
Lin said her time at UnitingCare has been incredibly rewarding.
“I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to play a leadership role in one of Australia’s great social service organisations,” Lin said.
“I am also excited because my new role represents a fantastic opportunity to continue working for a more just and equitable Australia at the heart of Australian social policy.”
UnitingCare Australia’s Chair Peter Bicknell said Lin leaves a legacy of better Australian public policy and practice across social services and welfare, and a church with a renewed understanding of what it means to commit to justice and hope through social services and advocacy.
“She has spent nearly a decade and a half exhorting us all to spend ourselves, personally and organisationally, in pursuit of a decent life for all, reminding us that together we can make the difference,” Mr Bicknell said.
“Together, with Lin, we have made the difference, in so many communities and lives. Together, we will continue to do so.”
Lin’s last day is on June 9. During this time Lin will be visiting New Zealand and China on UnitingCare business.
Associate National Director Martin Cowling will be Acting Director during the transition period from June 10 until the position is filled. Peter will take a more active role in working with Martin and the team during the recruitment process.
“We wish Lin God’s blessing and our best wishes as she moves to new challenges and opportunities to continue with her vocation in this new context,” Peter said.
UNITINGCARE Victoria and Tasmania has recently launched its very first stand-alone website as part of its strategy to be part of the digital revolution.
The website is a comprehensive site with up to date information to gives users an understanding of UnitingCare Victoria and Tasmania who are one of the largest providers of community services in Australia.
UCVT Senior Manager Marie Howard said the website will enable the network to showcase its range of unique services.
“In this day and age, our digital footprint is vital and the website is just one element of this,” she said.
“The website is a great way for our clients to look at where they are based and find out more about our services in their community. It also features an interactive map that clearly maps out our locations and services across the state.”
The website also features an About Us, Early Years, Work with Us and a Media and Publications section.
If you would like more information go to www.ucvt.org.au.
SHARE has just launched its new ‘Acts of Kindness’ catalogue to encourage people to spread kindness with gifts to mark a special occasion.
It’s in a bid to encourage people to buy a gift that helps put food on the table for a family struggling to make it from week to week, help disadvantaged children stay in school, and so much more.
Every year, a number of special occasions fill our calendars. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, graduations and so many other important milestones in our lives and those of our family and friends.
The comprehensive catalogue caters to anyone who wants to celebrate special occasions with a gift long after the presents are opened.
Share Director Angela Goodwin says the idea came after the team identified new ways to helping more people who experience a crisis.
“Crisis can happen to anyone and it can hit at any time,” Angela said.
“As the fundraising arm of UnitingCare, Share is proud to fund the work that makes a real difference in the lives of many when they need it the most. There are people living without food, shelter and safety who would have never imagined they would struggle to put food on the table.”
Angela said the gift catalogue gives people many different options to choose a meaningful gift.
“From a hot meal for a homeless person to toiletries for someone living in crisis accommodation there are a range of gifts beginning from just $10,” she said.
“Through buying from this catalogue, you can give a gift of kindness that will keep on giving; a gift which will not only meet practical needs but restore life, joy and hope.”
If you would like to learn more about Share’s gift catalogue visit www.sharegifts.org.au.
CONNECTIONS UnitingCare has been awarded ‘Best Newcomer to Social Impact Measurement’ by Social Impact Measurement Network Australia (SIMNA).
SIMNA Awards 2016 chose Connections for their work in the development of the Connections Outcomes Framework (COF).
The Best Newcomer category recognises organisations who have introduced social impact measurement within the past two years. Assessment is across six criterias with a focus on rigour, transparency and accountability.
Often referred to as outcomes measurement, social impact measurement assesses the impact of, or the difference made by a particular program or intervention.
“The development of the COF has enabled our organisation to quantify how we are meeting our strategic objective of making lives better“, Connections Senior Project Leader and Service Evaluation & Development Kathryn Mackay said.
“The COF involves tracking client progress across a range of outcome areas, with the results quantified and aggregated to provide evidence of program effectiveness which can be used for strategic and operational planning and to support funding acquisition,” Kathryn said.
The COF has been implemented across seven Connections’ programs, incorporating over 130 clients. It’s attracted considerable interest from the Child and Family Services sector and it will systematically be rolled out to almost 40 Connections’ programs.
“We look forward to the ongoing evolution of the COF and cementing its position as a leader in the area of outcomes measurement,” Kathryn said.
Connections are amongst nine organisations announced as finalists in the 2016 SIMNA Awards. Applications received for the SIMNA Awards were from different sectors, however eight out of the nine finalists, were from non-profit organisations.
“This demonstrates the commitment of the sector to improving the wellbeing of people and communities in Australia and abroad, and sharing their success and failures from their impact measurement and reports,” Chair of SIMNA Simon Faivel said
“We encourage all sectors who want to improve their impact measurement practices to learn from the SIMNA Awards finalists,” Mr. Faivel said.
Congratulations to everyone involved in this great achievement!
UNITINGCARE will create one of the largest community service organisations operating in Victoria and Tasmania under a new single governance structure aimed at strengthening its ability to support people in need throughout the two states.
It comes after a decision by the Uniting Church’s Synod Standing Committee (SSC) last year to establish a single skills-based Agency Board which will govern 18 UnitingCare agencies and Wesley Mission Victoria (WMV). The Board will be supported by regional advisory committees, local support groups and clinical governance committees. Currently, the agencies and Wesley Mission Victoria are all governed by individual boards.
Alternative models of support are being considered for smaller agencies. A model of support for congregations and presbyteries currently providing local or regional community services will be developed.
The SSC approved the appointment of former Victorian State Health Minister Bronwyn Pike to chair the single Agency Board. It also appointed a further four initial directors to the new Board.
“I am deeply honoured that the Uniting Church has asked me to chair this new organisation as I share their commitment to making Victoria and Tasmania fairer, compassionate and inclusive,’’ Bronwyn said.
UnitingCare Project Control Group (PCG) Chair Bob Hodges said the new governance structure will build on UnitingCare’s reputation as leaders of the provision of high quality community services across both states.
“It will make the work of client facing staff more effective by creating a structure that helps them to share ideas and learn from the innovative work currently being undertaken throughout the organisation.” Mr Hodges said.
UnitingCare agencies and WMV operate in metropolitan, regional and remote parts of Victoria and Tasmania offering a broad range of services and advocacy to support thousands of vulnerable people.
With a combined annual budget of approximately $237 million, 3,500 staff and 4,000 volunteers, UnitingCare and WMV‘s services include emergency relief, financial counselling, housing and homelessness services, employment services, early childhood services, child, youth and family services, disability services, mental health services, non-residential aged care, alcohol and other drugs services and Lifeline.
Ms Pike said UnitingCare agencies have supported vulnerable Victorians and Tasmanians for decades and have been a voice for social justice in our community.
As one unified agency of the Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania this vital work will now be expanded and strengthened as we address the new challenges in caring for people in great need,’’ she said.
The new single Agency Board will assume governance when all funders have formally agreed to service contracts continuing under the proposed new structure. This is expected to occur before the end of the year.
The new Board will have up to 11 members including the Chief Executive Officer as an executive director.
Following handover of governance, it will be business as usual in the first instance for all agencies, with existing CEOs reporting into the new executive structure.
Existing boards will be encouraged to remain in place to assist with the transition to the new governance structure.
“We would like to continue to work alongside our current boards who will play an invaluable role in providing input and advice to the new Agency Board,” Mr Hodges said.
“On the day of handover, there will be no change to the work that each agency is delivering in local communities. The same people will provide the same services to the same clients at the same locations are they are today.’’
Mr Hodges said major funders had been notified of the proposed changes.
“Our largest funder is the Victorian DHHS and we are working closely in partnership with them to provide the information they require.’’
“UnitingCare embodies the Church’s ethos of compassion and care for the vulnerable within our communities.”