The pandemic has affected all of us, but not all equally. As we support each other this Mental Health Week, United Way is placing a particular focus on workers in community agencies, who play a vital role in serving the most vulnerable across Niagara.
We know that the pandemic has taken a toll on people. Rising demand and few resources for community service agencies has been a major impact of this pandemic. In a Statistics Canada survey, 23% of community non-profits indicated that their 2021 revenues were lower by 25% or more compared with 2019. The lower revenues come at a time when 36% expected to face an increase in operating expenses.
I often don’t take a break during the day because there is so much to do. We’re short-staffed.
Survey respondents shared that demand for programs and services remains high, as 35% of community organizations expected to see an increase in demand over the coming three months. In addition, many continue to be concerned about recruiting and retaining skilled employees.
What does all this mean?
Many non-profit workers were at risk of burnout and compassion fatigue before the pandemic. But the unprecedented demand for services in the context of a prolonged crisis has taken an even greater toll on workers within human and community service provision. The majority of the workforce within this sector are women, many of whom had additional care responsibilities for children and elders at home and were therefore doing double or triple duty.
We couldn’t have volunteers due to fear of infection, so we did all the work ourselves
Each year United Way supports community agencies that deliver community programs in all municipalities of Niagara. Community agency partners are experiencing particularly high levels of absenteeism, burn out, and mental health leaves.
At one charity, a staff member says of their pandemic work, “We couldn’t have volunteers due to fear of infection, so we did all the work ourselves, making hundreds of meals for people who came to our door each day – an increase of 400 per cent before COVID. I often don’t take a break during the day because there is so much to do. We’re short-staffed. There are so many jobs in the private sector right now that are easier and better paid, it’s hard to attract and retain good people.”
Recruitment in the sector is also becoming a challenge, with fewer applicants coming forward, leading to difficulties finding workers to fill vacant positions like never before. The community services we all depend on are at risk. Essential services that address food security, mental health, homelessness and provide services to seniors, children and youth, people with disabilities and breaking the cycle of domestic violence.
So, what can we do about this challenge?
We can all take the time to acknowledge and recognize the amazing work of our essential front-line community service workers. This mental health week let’s take care of each other and let’s focus on the support needed by our essential community service workers.