Hands TheFamilyHelpNetwork.ca (Hands; the Agency) has continued to successfully help clients and families by providing online and telephone-based services throughout the current pandemic. As Ontario’s economy reopens and Hands plans for a safe return to in-person visits and community work, the Agency will continue to support clients and families with virtual service. This combination of in-person and virtual care options will be sustained for the foreseeable future.
“As providers of essential services to children, youth, adults with developmental disabilities and their families, health and safety is always a priority at Hands. We quickly adapted our services to a virtual model to meet our clients' needs during this pandemic and have maintained that service over the past five months,” said Andrea Roberts, Hands’ CEO.
“We will continue to adapt our services with health and safety as a top priority and are working to re-introduce priority in-person services for clients over the summer while continuing to offer online and telephone-based service.”
Utilizing a strategic, staggered approach to ensure Hands meets priority needs, some clinicians and employees will begin to return to offices this Summer, while others will return in the Fall or beyond. In planning for a potential second wave of the pandemic, Hands is ensuring the Agency remains nimble and able to make a swift and successful return to increased virtual service if required.
“We know that there will be a ‘new normal’ when we do return to our offices. Our ability to carefully plan our return provides us an opportunity to come back better: better prepared for future disruptions, better able to serve our clients with more flexibility; better able to serve clients online and in-person, better prepared to control potential infection, better able to balance the needs of clients, employees and partners,” said Roberts.
In an earlier statement, Hands clearly outlined that a measured and staged approach to a return to in‑person service would be the way forward. The vast majority of clients quickly and successfully transitioned to virtual service using available technology. This success provides an excellent opportunity for Hands to take the time to plan carefully for a return to in-person visits.
Hands is focused on planning for how the Agency can ‘build back better’ in returning to on-site work at its 12 locations throughout Northern and Central Ontario and in settings with community partners. The Agency is examining a multitude of considerations: services that need to be prioritized; individual clients and/or families that might be in crisis and need priority in-person help; maximum occupancy for sites while accounting for physical distancing; physical changes to meeting rooms and waiting areas to best protect clients and employees; how to welcome clients and other visitors; and, additional health and safety considerations including infection prevention and control protocols.
To ensure important client-based concerns inform the Agency’s recovery planning, Hands is launching a survey to ask clients about their concerns, what would help them feel safe in a return to in-person visits and whether they prefer to continue with an online or combination of in-person and virtual approach to service.
As more information becomes available, Hands will continue to communicate directly with clients and key stakeholders, as well as on the Agency website and through media and social media platforms.