09/09/2019 - 13:55

Volunteers offer Lifeline

09/09/2019 - 13:55

Bookmark

Upgrade your subscription to use this feature.

Lifeline WA is on its way to meeting its ambitious goal to answer the equivalent of all the state’s crisis calls by June 2020, after doubling its volunteer workforce in the past three years to answer a record 32,000 calls last year.

Lorna MacGregor says Lifeline WA wants its staff to be able to answer the equivalent of all local calls. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Lifeline WA is on its way to meeting its ambitious goal to answer the equivalent of all the state’s crisis calls by June 2020, after doubling its volunteer workforce in the past three years to answer a record 32,000 calls last year.

Chief executive Lorna MacGregor said improved retention strategies had helped the organisation lift the number of crisis supporters from 84 in December 2016 to the current 202.

“For the past two years we have been able to maintain only a 20 per cent turnover of crisis supporters,” Ms MacGregor told Business News.

There was no magic solution, she said, but rather a case of listening to the volunteers and the workforce, and better responding to their concerns.

“What matters to crisis supporters is ensuring that they get the professional development they need and the support they need, and that they are acknowledged as being part of the Lifeline workforce,” Ms MacGregor said.

“They are part of Lifeline WA, not merely a volunteer.

“They are acknowledged that they are a crucial part [of the organisation] and they are, I’m not just acknowledging it, it is honestly acknowledging that they deliver our flagship service.”

Volunteers contributed an estimated $855,000 in value to the organisation in the 2019 financial year.

Lifeline WA reported a surplus of $193,942 this past financial year, mostly due to a 15 per cent increase in fundraising revenue (government funding has increased at less than consumer price index in recent years).

“Fundraising is just a commercial activity like any other, so part of the growth came from greater support from corporate partners, we saw significant growth there,” Ms MacGregor told Business News.

“Part of it was around a better return on investment from the events we run, part of that was better target marketing, also better costs involved, [and] donations went up this year, which was frankly good luck, I can’t really account for that.

“There definitely is a really strong community support for what we do and there is strong corporate support for what we do.”

Lifeline WA offers a number of preventative programs in addition to its flagship crisis hotline service, which provides support for people in crisis, whether it be financial, domestic violence related, about a pre-existing mental health condition, or a relationship.

Ms MacGregor likened the service to an ambulance.

“Just like paramedics may find that someone may be very unwell, that they have had a heart attack, and it’s very obvious that there may be obesity or some other chronic health condition that’s caused it, they just deal with stabilising the heart attack,” she said.

“We don’t diagnose and we don’t solve, we stabilise and we help the person to understand what their next steps are and that’s different for every single person.”

In 2017, the Lifeline WA board set a target to answer 46,000 calls a year, which was the number of calls placed by Western Australians.

“Historically, Lifeline WA has only ever answered between 28,000 and 30,000, so the rest has been picked up by the network, the rest of Australia,” Ms MacGregor said.

“That’s problematic when you are not answering 100 per cent of the calls.

“Strategically we made it our target that, by June 2020, we would build our capacity to answer the equivalent of every WA call because at least we are ensuring that Lifeline WA is not adding to that burden of unanswered calls.”

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

Subscription Options