Understanding the impact of our virtual services
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, in response to the first lockdown and recognising the impact of the lockdown for our clients, The SAFV Centre moved quickly to enable all practitioners to deliver services virtually to clients, using a range of platforms including video, phone and webchat.
We engaged Nous Group to conduct an evaluation of our virtual services between February 2021 to June 2021. The evaluation engaged with 54 staff and clients from across our client services team and client group in both the Barwon area and Wimmera region, evaluating the appropriateness, efficiency, effectiveness, impact and sustainability of our virtual services.
Client feedback about our virtual services was overwhelmingly positive. Some clients surveyed indicated that they would prefer virtual services regardless of the external context. Others thought virtual services were the best option given the COVID-19 pandemic, however they would prefer to access in-person services if they could.
Even those clients who expressly preferred in-person services revealed that they still “got just as much out of the virtual sessions” and “would 100 per cent do virtual counselling in the future, it didn’t change the experience.”
The evaluation reinforced that our practitioners were highly skilled in making clients feel comfortable with virtual delivery, both on video platforms or over the phone, despite not necessarily receiving specific training in virtual delivery techniques. Clients reported that the level of care they experienced was not compromised by virtual delivery and appreciated how practitioners were still able to pick up nuances in tone and pauses virtually.
In virtual group sessions, practitioners helped make participants feel comfortable by facilitating the conversation well and giving everyone a chance to speak. This demonstrated the important role that practitioners played in creating a positive virtual experience for clients.
Clients reported that they felt safe using the virtual platforms, with 96% of those surveyed felt safe or very safe using virtual services and 95% felt confident or very confident that their privacy was protected. The main concern felt by clients was being overheard by people in their own surroundings.
The technology used to deliver our virtual services is accessible and easy to use. The experience of our virtual services was not driven by clients’ digital literacy or comfort with technology: several clients described themselves as typically not confident with new technology, but still found the platforms accessible, easy to use and overall had a positive experience accessing the virtual services.
Overall, the evaluation found that our virtual service delivery is high quality, with benefits felt by clients and staff. Our clients reported improved strategies in coping with trauma and their children through individual counselling sessions, case management and group sessions. Our clients also highlighted feeling less anxious and better able to talk about their experiences with others as a result of the support.
We are committed to taking the learnings and recommendations from this evaluation and embedding evidence-based practice and solutions that enables us to provide effective and person centred support to our clients.
Our sincere appreciation to our clients and staff who provided their feedback as part of this evaluation.