The Salvation Army’s inaugural Australia Southern territorial Doorways Coordinator, Pamela Hanney (2011-2018), retired recently. Here she reflects on her journey with the Salvos’ staff and clients.
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In 2011 when I started at The Salvation Army I was given the chance to go on a great adventure. The Salvation Army had conceived its ‘Doorways philosophy’. In a submission to the federal government, the Doorways philosophy was described as a holistic, innovative approach to emergency relief that ‘promotes integrated service delivery, individual capacity building and a “hand up, not a hand out” approach to social welfare service provision and support’. https://www.salvationarmy.org.au | Australia-Pre-Budget-Submission-2014-2015-Federal-Budget | Reducing-the-impact-of-disadvantage. 2-Key-Priority-Areas
The foundational work had been done, and the principles were already well thought out. Our centres and services in Tasmania and South Australia had started to implement the Doorways philosophy, and I was privileged to be given the responsibility of taking this to the next level.
In the time since then it has been an amazing journey for me and for everyone in our Community Support Services. In reality, this journey completely turned our Emergency Relief delivery on its axis – taking it from a fairly traditional model (well-meaning, and from the heart, which didn’t actually change the lives of the people we supported). In the old model of ER, we provided a bit of a buffer – we tried to ‘share around the support’ to be fair to everyone.
The shift to the Doorways philosophy was partially triggered by the realisation that we weren’t really making a difference.
So, since 2011, we have all gone through the cycle of changing a delivery culture. I think we have done well, because research suggests it takes 20 years to change a culture. Admittedly we were changing an organisational culture, but one that was very entrenched.
I often told people that I had the best job in The Salvation Army, because as well as working with all my wonderful colleagues at Territorial Headquarters in Melbourne I was out and about in the divisions, working directly with our amazing teams on the ground. They are the face of The Salvation Army in their communities; they are where you see The Salvation Army mission in action every day.
These staff members had to rethink their entire approach to ER. Delivery under Doorways does enable our teams to have increased flexibility to offer multiple options of support to help people to move to a more stable future. However, with this flexibility comes complexity, because it can also mean that you cannot help as many people as you may have seen in the past.
We also experienced a change in the economy as a result of the longer-term impacts of the Global Financial Crisis (2007-2009). The GFC had a significant impact for ER services, in that it created an expansion of our client base, with an ever increasing number of people experiencing ‘situational poverty’.
This was a dramatic change for many of our CSS sites; the situational poverty cohort was an entirely new cohort. It brought more complexity, as many of these clients needed fast and very targeted early interventions to stop them entering a ‘spiral’ of debt, with the accompanying stress that often leads to family breakdown.
The Doorways introduction was very timely. It was an appropriate, visionary initiative of The Salvation Army, and it has made our ER services a contemporary example of ‘best practice’ services that focus on building the capacity of the people we support.
There are many highlights from my time in the role:
Hearing ER staff saying they feel invigorated and enthusiastic about their work, saying that under Doorways they really do feel like they are making a difference.
Watching the Divisional/State Doorways managers guide their teams to bring about change.
The positive atmosphere and total engagement of site managers, ER and CM workers at Doorways’ statewide full-day workshops, where innovative ideas and best practice were shared. Observing peer support in action is incredibly special.
Seeing the take up of the Doorways mantra; that our CSS sites are not just a place to get a voucher. That The Salvation Army Doorways sites are places where people know they are welcome. That our CSS sites are a place of connection.