The social impacts of COVID-19

Perspectives

The social impacts of COVID-19

Reset not restart: taking advantage of a crisis for social change

The economic challenges of COVID-19 are deep and broad, but we can use these challenges to fast-track positive investments that will ultimately deliver better social outcomes.

Responding to COVID-19 has required governments to prioritise managing the health crisis and responding to the economic fallout. In Australia, the focus has appropriately been on the public health response and cushioning the economic impact. The decisions associated with the economic and health impacts have flow-on effects to our society. To date we have observed negative changes in our broader social indicators, including rates of domestic and family violence, mental health, child protection, and justice system.

Yet it is not all bad news. We have witnessed social connectedness on a global scale, and innovation and adoption of new technologies at an unprecedented rate. The use of new technologies is also changing the way we deliver social services. We have seen restaurants and the arts sector change their business models, new apps to connect those who need support with volunteers, and messages of hope that create community connections.

We need to understand, monitor and document these affects – positive and negative – to ensure our immediate and long-term policy responses account of these changes, take advantage of the positive aspects, and provide an effective mechanism to address the social impacts of COVID-19.

While we have a menu of imperfect choices, all with differing consequences, one thing is certain: the choices and trade-offs we make today will affect our trajectory in terms of the impact on our nation’s health, economy, environment and social system. We must not lose sight of the social impacts – to ensure the decisions being made today and during the recovery phase leverage the social gains and continue to protect those who are most at risk.

The economic challenges of COVID-19 are deep and broad, but we have the opportunity to use these challenges to fast-track positive investments that will ultimately deliver better social outcomes. That way, when we do get to the other side of the proverbial bridge, we can be confident that, not only did we successfully address the social impacts, but we took advantage of the impetus to change the way we delivery social services across our nation. And maybe this will change our collective understanding of how we, as individuals and society, contribute to building a better future.

Let’s not just press Restart, lets press Reset.

Published: August 2020

The social impacts of COVID-19
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