Belinda Dilena is passionate about making a difference to her clients’ lives through her role at Novita as a social worker; as she aims to provide clarity, understanding and on-going support so that her clients can reach their goals, not only during the COVID-19 pandemic, but long-term too.
So, let’s break that down:
As a social worker, Belinda supports people to make changes in their lives to improve their personal and social well-being, by identifying issues that need to be addressed and connecting people with support such as secure housing and therapy. navigating the NDIS, looking at housing and work options, and linking clients to appropriate services. Assistance during times of hardship or vulnerability, and support through major life transitions are also areas supported by social workers.
Belinda also has extensive knowledge of human behaviour and development, life cycle stages, family and social networks, disability and mental health – and she offers this wealth of knowledge and experience to her clients.
“I have been a social worker for a long time, both interstate and overseas and love the different paths that social work can lead you into,” says Belinda.
“I have spent the majority of my career in palliative care, providing bereavement programs in Perth and then became a bereavement counsellor at Central Adelaide Palliative Care Service. I have worked in child protection, and then wanted to widen my skill base in disability, so decided to join the team at Novita.”
Belinda provides her social work support services from Novita’s Elizabeth office and predominantly works with clients living with autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy and neurological disorders.
Belinda has worked through the COVID-19 pandemic by integrating the needs of clients and their families to find the right support methods, “It’s been such a challenging time for our clients – there has been much anxiety and uncertainty.”
“Because of this, there has been lots of supportive counselling to help parents to support their kids during this time, especially as they transitioned to home schooling. We have created social stories* for our clients who struggled with change and going from being at school, accessing respite, attending groups and so on, to all of a sudden being home 24/7,”says Belinda.
*Social stories are books created for clients with autism for familiarity and reassurance purposes.
Belinda has been working with a young male client living with autism, who has struggled to adapt to the intense change that the pandemic has had on his lifestyle.
“His whole life came to a standstill,” says Belinda.
“He was no longer attending day options, respite or the activities that he would usually go to three days a week. Instead he was watching the news every day to find out what was happening, but was then unable to process how the restrictions affected him. There was an escalation in his behaviour, meaning his emotions were heightened by the news, so I worked with his mother to put effective management methods in place.”
The strategies that Belinda adopted to support her client included reinforcement methods and strategies to ensure that he understood this was a temporary and short-term change, and normal life would be able to resume.
Belinda also found ways to restrict the amount of news her client was consuming by taking away platforms such as social media to alleviate the anxiety and stress.
Alongside clients struggling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Belinda is also working to provide support through her role as a social worker to adolescent girls with a focus on building self-esteem, social skills and managing puberty.
“Puberty is a big one, particularly for girls with intellectual disability who don’t have good cognitive understanding – as they may physically present as 14 year olds, but cognitively they can’t understand the changes in their body, so I do a lot of work with them in that area.
Then for others it might be around finding appropriate work avenues for them or appropriate housing to support them to live independently,” says Belinda.
Since starting in her role at Novita, Belinda has noticed that social work is in greater demand in the disability sector, which she says is a positive for the industry and clients alike.
“It means that we are able to give more support to our clients who need it to achieve their goals and live a full and happy life.”