A visit to bushfire affected communities by an EML Case Manager sheds valuable light on support required for injured workers.

EML Case Management Specialist Hayley Brooks met with customers in the Sussex Inlet region last month. The qualified social worker, who manages some of the most challenging cases of serious injury and impairment says the three-day community visit gave insight into some of the issues facing entire communities during a mass event.

People are overwhelmed, given what they have been through already so it’s great to be able to sit down and talk through the claims process together,” Ms Brooks said.

Ms Brooks also helped distribute masks and information to assist with keeping employees and employers safe at workplaces during this time. 

“People were able to come away with something tangible.”

Ms Brooks said two words continually come to mind from her time in the fire affected zones.

“Community spirit.”

People were constantly thinking about the community, had guilt that they couldn’t do more and were concerned about others who they felt were worse off than they were.”

Ms Brooks says one-on-one contact has been invaluable in providing a greater understanding of what people were going through and most concerned about as they responded to the bushfire crisis.

“In a sense it has helped us connect on a deeper level. It’s definitely helped with rapport, meaning workers get the support they need, when they need it,” Ms Brooks said.

Ms Brooks is sharing her experience with peers at EML, so her insights are amplified across case management professionals providing support to injured workers who are living in bushfire affected communities. 

“Communication lines were down, many of the medical practitioners were closed so patients can't get appointments. Access to food and clean water is uncertain at times. If you’ve got an injury as well, working on your recovery becomes very challenging! As case managers it becomes much harder to help someone when this kind of infrastructure isn’t available. We need to find out from injured workers what’s going on for them because there may be other ways that we can support them. That was a huge insight for me.”

EML is reviewing Ms Brooks’ findings and experiences, looking to ensure there is a more holistic view of a customer’s life and their circumstances, particularly in disaster zones. These include:

  • Identifying and then connecting people with other support resources, such as the Commonwealth Disaster Scheme and other, state schemes on offer
  • Having a greater understanding of the big picture and relating this to the customer
  • Face-to-face conferencing in affected areas to help consider responses to the significant issues being experienced 

Ms Brooks says these three overarching findings can make a huge difference to someone’s circumstances and ultimately the speed of their recovery.

“Sometimes it’s more about giving people hope and options, when recovery and return to work at first seems too challenging.”