Coronavirus (COVID-19) latest information for carers

Coronavirus (COVID-19) latest information for carers

 

Carers NSW is closely monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, the ongoing government response and the wide ranging impacts it has on carers. Below is our latest COVID-19 information and resources for carers.

General information

The Australian Government Department of Health website provides daily updates, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), the latest news, current facts and figures, travel advice and contact details. Visit www.health.gov.au for more information.

NSW Health provides the latest information and advice on the coronavirus (COVID-19) on their website at www.health.nsw.gov.au

The NSW Department of Communities and Justice have information for seniors, people with disability and carers on their website.

Carers can visit these websites or call the National Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080 (or the National Relay Service on 1300 555 727) for up to date advice about the present level of risk and recommended precautions.

Latest information from 1 May 2020

The NSW Government has announced a minor easing of COVID-19 restrictions from 1 May 2020 with up to two adults and their dependent children allowed to visit another household. It is still important to maintain social distancing and hygiene requirements.

Services Australia has published an article for carers suggesting they remain on the Carer Payment rather than switch to JobSeeker Payment. You can view more information here https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/news/why-carer-payment-probably-right-payment-you

Australian Banks will issue debit cards to customers who don't have them and who may be self-isolating to make sure they can continue to pay for their goods and services online or over the phone throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently there are over half a million Australian bank customers who actively use a passbook account or transaction account with no linked debit card, with many of these being customers over 70 years of age.

LawAccess NSW and Legal Aid NSW have partnered to provide free legal help to people affected by the COVID-19 restrictions. The LawAccess NSW 1300 888 529 number will continue to be a starting point for people who have a NSW legal problem, including legal issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. The telephone service is available Monday to Friday between 9am to 5pm (excluding Public Holidays). People who call for help will be provided with legal information, referrals to other legal assistance services, and in some cases, legal advice over the telephone. You can also visit the LawAccess NSW website www.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au to access resources around a range of legal topics, including legal issues arising from COVID-19.

Households struggling to pay their energy bills during COVID-19 now have access to additional financial support. Residential energy customers can now apply for Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) vouchers directly through Service NSW and will be called for an assessment without having to leave their house.

  • The EAPA assessment threshold has been temporarily increased so people can receive up to $400 per assessment twice per year, compared to the normal amount of $300.
  • The program now also extends energy rebates to Commonwealth Senior Health Card holders for the first time.

Further information about eligibility and the vouchers can be found on the Service NSW website.

People whose income has been reduced may be eligible for one or more of the NSW Government electricity and gas rebate programs, including:

  • NSW Family Energy Rebate
  • Low Income Household Rebate
  • NSW Gas Rebate
  • Life Support Rebate
  • Medical Energy Rebate
  • Seniors Energy Rebate

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) has developed a Jobs Hub to link businesses that have vacancies they need to fill, with Australians looking to work. This is a free service. Providers can email workforce@dese.gov.au if they are looking to fill vacancies, and provide details of the roles you are looking to fill and a link to your advertised vacancies. This info will then be available on the jobs hub for job seekers.

Technology

The Government has announced $1 million to help older and vulnerable Australian’s become (or stay) digitally connected. One-off payments of up to $5000 would allow existing Be Connected Network Partners to purchase and loan digital devices and sim cards to Australians aged over 50 years. The grants are intended to help provide devices such as a laptop or iPad and data plans for up to 3500 older Australians who would otherwise be at risk of disconnecting during the Coronavirus pandemic. More information is available at https://beconnected.esafety.gov.au/

Leep is offering free technology support for clients who are isolated in their homes via phone and video chat. Organisations can refer their clients to a ‘Tech Mate’ who will support the client with online skills such as online banking, accessing e-Health information and resources and connecting to family and friends through phone and video chat. Support is free and people can call 1300 163 106 to make an appointment.

The Australian Government launched the new voluntary coronavirus app, COVIDSafe, on Sunday 26 April. The app has received strong support from states and territories and the health sector.

Telehealth delivery of dementia care in the home can be as effective as face-to-face home visit services if carers and recipients take advantage of the technologies available according to Australian researchers. A study of 63 people living with mild to moderate dementia, and their care partners, found that telehealth services using videoconferences can save travel time - particularly in rural and remote areas - and equip families with strategies to promote independence in the person with dementia.

Customers seeking to renew or replace a Mobility Parking Scheme permit can now submit their application online via the Service NSW website. The transaction requires the customer to fill out and upload the application form and medical certificate completed by their doctor. Clear photos from a mobile device will suffice for the upload. If a customer does not have a valid stored image in the database, but otherwise meets all the requirements for a permit, they may still be able to obtain a temporary six month permit. Applicants who are not yet established in the system will still need to attend a Service NSW centre.

Mental Health

More than 180 mental health workers will be deployed across NSW as part of a $73 million package to boost mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the additional mental health staff and new digital resources would ensure anyone who requires support is able to access it when they need it.

Digital mental health service ReachOut Parents is urging Australian parents of teenagers to make their own mental health a priority as they face increasing pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic and is providing free online support for parents of teenagers to help them manage the challenges that families are facing.  The ReachOut Parents service includes COVID-19 specific advice and tips, online peer support where parents can connect with other parents, and one-on-one support provided over the phone by professional coaches.

Headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation has created a resource for young people, family and friends on the ways in which people can try to understand and manage any conflict within their households that may be heightened as a result of COVID-19: https://headspace.org.au/covid-19/

Red Cross is another service offering COVID Connect, a daily phone call to vulnerable people, their friends or loved ones. You can register for the Red Cross COVID-19 service by calling 1800 188 071 or online.

Online and phone support services for people experiencing drug and alcohol problems will receive an additional $6 million from the Australians Government during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other

Ethnolink has translated Covid-19 resources published by trusted authorities such as the Australian Department of Health and Home Affairs into 71 languages so that all Australians can access information in their preferred language.

Carers UK have released a new report, 'Caring Behind Closed Doors'. The report shows the impact the coronavirus outbreak has had on carers, and is based on a survey of 5000 carers and former carers. Carers reported that they are providing more care as well as spending more money than usual, on top of worrying about what might happen to the person they care for if they get ill. Issues such as difficulties accessing food and medicine, the impact of local services closing and not feeling their role is recognised were also key challenges for carers.

Specific information for carers of older people

Almost 1,000 aged care providers and their representatives have requested clearer guidelines about how to balance residential aged care residents’ protection with enabling family visits and additional resourcing to address the related challenges.

The Commissioner has outlined expectations with Aged care providers expected to exercise care and compassion, keeping consumers at the centre of decision-making. This position aligns with the expectations of National Cabinet that it is not acceptable, fair or compassionate for residential aged care services to ban visits from carers and families. The commission has some set out some actions that residential aged care services can take to support quality care and safety during the visitor restrictions. The Department of Health fact sheet regarding visitor restrictions in aged care facilities is available here.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission's Chief Clinical Advisor has written to residential aged care service providers on the subject of screening people entering residential aged care facilities. Routine screening of staff and visitors on entry is strongly recommended for all residential services irrespective of size or location. Aged Care Quality and Safety Agency advice regarding screening of entrants to aged care facilities is available here.

Health and industry experts from the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN), Carers Australia and Beyond Blue will provide information about what is being done to assist people in aged care, their carers or loved ones during COVID-19, especially surrounding visitation. For further information visit www.opan.com.au/covid.

The Government has engaged Sonic Healthcare to provide a dedicated pathology service for rapid sample collection and testing for suspected cases of COVID-19 in residential aged care facilities. This service will be available until 30 September 2020.

The Federal Government is helping more Senior Australians access personal monitoring technology during self-isolation. The monitoring systems send an alert to a staffed centre or family member in an emergency.  Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) service providers are being given additional flexibility to fund monitoring services. This will include monitoring subscriptions for one year. Older Australians in receipt of home care packages will also be able to access the technology.

Free daytime webinars are now available to help improve the online skills of Senior Australians as they increasingly turn to the internet to access online services and connect with loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hosted by professional eSafety Commissioner trainers, the courses offer participants guidance to help build basic online skills and confidence required to carry out video chats, telehealth, shopping and banking. The classes feature key topics specifically for remaining connected while social distancing measures are in place, including:

  • Video chatting with family, friends and health professionals
  • Ordering groceries and other shopping essentials online for home delivery
  • Carrying out everyday tasks online, including accessing essential services
  • Accessing Federal Government information updates from australia.gov.au and the Coronavirus Australia app

Those interested in participating can register via beconnected.esafety.gov.au/bookings available here. For help setting up, there’s also the Be Connected support line on 1300 795 897.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety is calling for submissions from the general public and organisations relating to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on the aged care sector. Carers NSW will be providing a submission and individuals can make submissions at: https://agedcare.royalcommission.gov.au/submissions/Pages/default.aspx#ways

Over 7000 seniors took part in a free 30-minute exercise program streamed live across three online video platforms. Active Seniors Health Centre will continue to provide daily free exercise sessions for seniors across NSW on their website at https://www.activeseniors.net.au/

Specific information for carers of people with disability

Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), Stuart Robert, announced further initiatives to support NDIS participants and disability providers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

For the next five months, eligible participants will be able to flexibly use existing NDIS plan funding to purchase low-cost Assistive Technology, including smart devices, to enable continued access to disability supports through telehealth and telepractice while physical distancing regulations are in place for coronavirus pandemic. Participants can now use up to $1,500 of their existing NDIS core funding to purchase an item if:

  • it will maintain funded NDIS supports like a program, therapy or requirement (for example physiotherapy or Auslan interpreting provided via video conferencing), and
  • the provider of supports has confirmed in writing the device is necessary to continue supports and services while maintaining physical distancing requirements, and
  • it is the lowest specification that will maintain funded supports, and
  • they do not already have the item, another suitable item or access to the item, and
  • the item has not been funded by another service system (such as education), and
  • the item or circumstances are not specifically excluded.

Not all participants have funding available in core budgets for consumables. The NDIA are working on a system update to make sure this flexibility is available to everyone. This change will happen automatically on 9 May 2020.

The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission has released the following resources:

A new NDIS Price Guide, effective 30 April 2020, has been released to accommodate all of the COVID-19 related policy changes (all changes covered in previous daily updates). However, many of the new items have end/review dates as they are short term measures related to COVID-19. New line items in place until 30 September 2020 (to be reviewed by the end of June).

New support items for Supported Independent Living (SIL) providers are now available where a participant has been diagnosed with Covid-19, including higher intensity support and professional cleaning services. This includes:

  • Cleaning services: $300 to cover the cost of a one-off professional deep cleaning of a residence per participant newly diagnosed with coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Higher intensity support: $1,200 maximum daily rate to cover the cost of higher intensity support including staffing increase, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), professional laundering, and any ancillary costs directly related to the participant’s diagnosis.

NSW Health has developed resources for disability support providers on COVID-19, including home isolation guidance and information for families of residential care facility residents, which are available here https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/Pages/disability-support.aspx

 

If you need individual information or support please phone Carers NSW on 02 9280 4744 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) or call Lifeline at any time on 13 11 14 for 24-hour emotional and crisis support.

Carers and service providers are invited to raise issues for carers and suggest solutions by completing our online Policy Advice Form survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/policy_advice_form or emailing Carers NSW on contact@carersnsw.org.au. This information will help us in adjusting our service delivery and advocating for carers’ needs during the coronavirus pandemic.

 

 

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Carers NSW acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land, Elders past and present and all Aboriginal people.