The team at Hands TheFamilyHelpNetwork.ca is preparing its staged approach to return to in-person services.

During COVID-19, the agency has been successful in helping clients and families by providing online and telephone-based services.

As the province reopens, Hands is planning for a safe return to in-person visits and community work and they will continue to support clients via their virtual services.

The organization expects this combination to be sustained for the foreseeable future.

In a press release, Hands’ CEO Andrea Roberts says as providers of essential services to children, youth, adults with developmental disabilities and their families, health and safety is always a priority.

“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,” Roberts said.  “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. 

Roberts adds they there will be a ‘new normal’ when they do return to their 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.”

The agency had previously 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 – which provides an excellent opportunity for Hands to take the time to plan carefully for a return to in-person visits.

The agency is focused on planning for how they 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 including 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.

It is also looking at 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 also launching a survey to ask clients about their concerns are and whether they prefer to continue with an online or combination of in-person and virtual approach to service. 

Hands will continue to provide updates on their plans as they are developed.