Members of the 45th Synod heard inspiring reports from the CEOs of our Uniting Church WA agencies: Uniting WA, Juniper, and Good Sammy Enterprises. The agency leaders focussed on how their service providers are dealing with loneliness and social isolation in our communities today.

Amanda Hunt, CEO of Uniting WA, said that while Uniting WA is largely an organisation which responds to people’s needs, it also aims to address the causes behind those needs. As Uniting WA offers practical support, Amanda said they also have a desire to keep people connected and socially engaged.

“We can very clearly link vulnerability to social isolation and lack of connection,” she said. “We’re trying to get people to connect with community.”

Chris Hall, CEO of Juniper, talked about the importance of connection for ageing people who become more and more disconnected from social situations as they get older.

“Social isolation and loneliness are significant issues and major challenges for older people, including those in aged care,” he said.

Up to 700 people in Juniper’s care each day do not have visitors from family or friends. Juniper serves 1 600 clients in community, who’s only visit they may receive is from one of Juniper’s home care providers.

Chris reported that COVID has created further challenges, as visitor restrictions have affected many people. Volunteering through teleservices and other means of technology has made a difference in this area, and Chris praised the staff of Juniper for their care.

“In addition to providing clinical care, Juniper staff are focussed on keeping our residents active,” he said. “Many bring joy, humour and laughter to the lives of our residents.

“It’s both wonderful and inspiring to witness. Their dedication and commitment is often overlooked and inadequately funded.”

Programs bringing older people together with young people is also creating meaningful connections and lasting memories.

Melanie Kiely, CEO of Good Sammy Enterprises (GSE), talked of the importance employment has in helping people form meaningful connections. GSE have recently launched the Good Sammy Academy, a course for people living with disability who are looking for work, want to change jobs, or people who want to explore employment options.

GSE not only provides work in their stores and operations, but supports people living with disability to finding meaningful work in the community.

“It’s about empowering people to be more, and to build their confidence to work where they want to work,” she said.

“Our goal is not to have people working there (at GSE) for 20 years on reduces wages. Our goal is to have people on award wages throughout Perth.

“We’ve got big dreams and we look forward to making those a reality.”

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