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.

The Department of Social Services has a range of information and resources available on its COVID-19 web page: https://www.dss.gov.au/about-the-department/coronavirus-covid-19-information-and-support

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 Friday 8 May 2020

The Australian Institute of Family Studies is conducting a survey of the impacts of COVID-19 on families. They are seeking to discover how people are coping and if they are getting the supports they need. The survey insights will be shared with the general public, government and non-government agencies, to help them serve families better. Only researchers will have access to the data, which will be de-identified.

A new online volunteering platform, has been developed through a partnership between the NSW Department of Communities and Justice and the Centre for Volunteering. Organisations that need support, and volunteers that are willing to help out, can register online, so that the Centre for Volunteer can link the two, and ensure important support is provided during this challenging time. For more information and to register please visit https://emergency.volunteer.org.au/.  

Pride in Health + Wellbeing has produced a factsheet for employers on ways to support their LGBTQ employees while they work from home. The fact-sheet helps inclusive organisations facing this new challenge due to COVID-19 restrictions.

TAFE NSW is offering 21 free online short courses – these are open to people over 17 who live or work in NSW and are Australian or New Zealand citizens, permanent residents or humanitarian visa holders. Courses include coding, cyber security, and infection prevention, and range in commitment from three to 11 hours a week for up to 26 weeks.

Eligible Creative Kids providers will be able to access up to $5,000 in digital adaptation grants to help them offer creative learning activities online. This includes purchasing equipment and internet services to help them transition online, so they can provide lessons to children or young people who are at home and can’t attend workshops or classes in person.

A Coronavirus and Handwashing digital library of important coronavirus health information, videos, and tips has been produced in 28 languages commonly spoken in Australia's refugee and asylum seeker communities. Resources are grouped by languages, including Dinka, Swahili, Arabic, Kurdish, Bengali and Tibetan - with links to videos and health information sites underneath in the specified language.

Finances

Banks have provided a six-month loan deferral on an estimated $6.8 billion of business, mortgage and other loan repayments due to the impact of COVID-19.

  • 320,000 homeowners approved for a loan deferral on their mortgage repayments
  • 170,000 business owners received a deferral on their business loan repayments
  • 37,000 other loan repayments, such as personal loans and credit cards, have also been deferred.

Amendments to the Jobkeeper payment include:

  • A business that has suffered a substantial decline in turnover can also be entitled to a Jobkeeper payment of $1,500 per fortnight for one business participant who is actively engaged in operating the business.
  • A registered religious institution that has suffered a substantial decline in turnover can also be entitled to a Jobkeeper payment of $1,500 per fortnight for each eligible religious practitioner who is active as a member of the institution.

Telstra is currently offering a discount for eligible customers currently receiving the JobSeeker payment. Customers may receive a discount of up to $20 per month off the total bill for six months. Applications are open until Monday May 18, 2020, unless extended.

Legal assistance

Legal Aid NSW and LawAccess NSW are providing free advice to people facing legal issues as a result of COVID-19 public health restrictions. People in NSW may be seeking help in relation to a wide range of issues, including job losses, social security entitlements, care arrangements for children and questions related to new public health laws. There are also many resources already available on the Legal Aid NSW website

Legal Aid has made changes to the Legal Aid NSW means test in response to the Australian Government’s COVID-19 economic stimulus package. The changes apply to applications determined on or after 14 April 2020 and ensure eligible applicants can access legal aid and that the Australian Government policy intent is given effect. Their recent policy bulletin details the changes.

Mental health

New modelling by the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre has shown the potential impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of Australians. The modelling forecasts a significant rise in suicide due to the pandemic, with a warning that young people are likely to be most affected and rates could rise by as much as 50 per cent, if unemployment spikes. Australian Bureau of Statistics data indicates that young people are losing jobs at more than double the overall rate.

Youth Action NSW has developed a resource page for young people to access information about health, education and employment during the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be updated regularly as the pandemic continues to impact young people across NSW.

The Government’s digital mental health gateway, Head to Health is an online health hub for information, advice, online counselling, treatment and crisis support.

Relationships Australia NSW (RANSW)'s Time2Talk is a free telephone service staffed by a team of qualified relationship counsellors and social workers, established to assist members of the NSW community who have been impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions imposed by state and federal Governments on travel, contact with significant others and management of social distancing. Time 2 Talk is for people experiencing any number of difficulties during COVID-19 that could be relating to their families, households, their personal situation or work life and just want to talk to someone.

Regional Australians are being encouraged to access the additional mental health and wellbeing services on offer during the COVID-19 pandemic. The following support services include:

  • eheadspace (for people aged 12 to 25 and their families) — call 1800 650 890 or chat online.
  • Beyond Blue (anyone feeling depressed or anxious) — call 1300 22 4636 or chat online.
  • Black Dog Institute (anyone affected by mood disorders) — online help
  • SANE Australia (people living with a mental illness) — call 1800 18 7263 or chat online.
  • This Way Up Clinic (anyone with stress, anxiety and depression) — online courses.
  • MindSpot (people with anxiety and depression) — call 1800 61 44 34 or online screening.
  • Pregnancy Birth Baby (telephone, video call and online counselling for parents — call 1800 882 436.
  • My Aged Care (aged care services provided by the Australian government) — call 1800 200 422.

The Federal Government has announced increased funding for domestic and family violence services, including:

  • No To Violence will receive $2.4 million to work with men who use violence and controlling behaviour. This includes the expansion of the Men's Referral Service.
  • The Salvation Army will receive $320,000 in additional funding under Keeping Women Safe in their Homes for its Safer in the Home program, in response to an increase in demand for this service.

Specific information for carers of older people

Newmarch House, an aged care facility in Western Sydney, where a significant number of residents and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 has had regulatory actions taken by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission this week as a result of their handling of the COVID-19 cluster in the facility.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has taken the precautionary step of suspending hearings and workshops until further notice, due to the risk to public and staff health from the Coronavirus.

The Royal Commissioners are also very concerned by the reports of deaths due to COVID-19 in aged care facilities, including Newmarch House.

Since March 2020, the Commissioners have been collecting information, including submissions from the public, so that their final report may be informed by the lessons learnt from the pandemic. They encourage submissions from aged care providers, people who receive aged care services, and their families, who are affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Leasing Age Services Australia (LASA) has called for a long term strategy to reduce Home Care Package wait times to three months. While the priority list has reduced by approximately 25,000 over the last 12 months (129,028 in March 2019 down to 104,473 in the December quarter), people are continuing to report waiting over 12 months for a high level package. 44,000 additional Home Care Packages were released in July 2018, however according to LASA, the Budget’s forward estimates do not include significant additional Home Care Package releases from 2020-2021.

The growing demand for home care by older Australians is in danger of not being met and the national queue may start trending upwards again, according to LASA.

A Visitor Access Code is being developed to ensure a nationally consistent visitation policy to residential aged care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The draft code will be finalised by Monday May 11, 2020. Carers Australia had input to the draft code. The provisions of the code are in line with recommendations provided by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), building on the initial advice by the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA).

The Code aims to apply a compassionate and consistent visitor policy that continues to minimise the risk of COVID-19 while providing innovative on-site visiting solutions to maintain the mental health of residents.

Recent polling undertaken by Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) shows that a significant majority of Australians (69 per cent) support aged care homes limiting visitors to protect older Australians from COVID-19. Only 10 per cent of respondents were opposed to the ban on visitors.

Older Person’s Advocacy Network (OPAN) has collated the details of their COVID related services / resources, which include:

  • Live interactive webinars covering different aspects of COVID-19
  • Phone lines including OPAN COVID-19 Information Line 1800 237 981 (6am-10pm, 7days)
  • Older Australians COVID-19 Support Line 1800 171 866 (8.30am-6pm Monday-Friday)
  • Callback Service 1800 171 866 to register someone you are concerned about for a call/
  • A flyer that outlines the Charter of Aged Care Rights in a clear and concise way
  • FAQ and Resources pages on their website
  • Online ‘ask a question’ webpage

Visitors and staff (including visiting workers) should not be permitted to enter a residential aged care facility if they have not been vaccinated against influenza (after May 1, 2020). Residential aged care facilities are encouraged to display this poster at entrances to alert anyone entering the facility of these flu vaccination requirements.

Specific information for carers of people with disability

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has added an additional FAQs page to its web site for participants employed in Australian Disability Enterprise (previously known as supported workshops). The FAQ tackles questions such as “Is it safe for me to go to work during coronavirus – COVID19”. More information can be found here.

NSW Health has published information on COVID-19 restrictions that are tailored to disability services, with the aim being to protect the community and limit the spread of COVID-19. According to the restrictions, you may only leave your place of residence (group or private home) if you have a reasonable excuse, including:

  • Accessing social services as well as supports provided to people with a disability that enable people to be included in society or live independently.
  • Providing care and assistance (including personal care) to a vulnerable person (such as a person with a disability).
  • Travelling for work purposes, where you can’t work from your residence.
  • Travelling for the purposes of attending school, where you can’t learn from your place of residence, buying food or other essential goods and services.
  • Obtaining medical care or medicines
  • Exercise
  • Emergencies or compassionate reasons

People are not to participate in a gathering in a public place of more than two people. Exceptions to this include:

  • A gathering of people, all of whom are members of the same household (meaning any persons living together in the same place of residence – such as a group home)
  • A gathering of people for the purposes of work (including work at disability facilities)
  • A gathering to provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person (such as a person with disability).

NSW Health has advised that group home residents are exempt from the 4 square metre rule and exempt from mass gathering rule (with other residents/workers). Detailed lists of exceptions are published online at: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/Pages/disability-public-health-orders.aspx

Disability workers fear a lack of support for the sector could result in it being impacted greatly by the COVID-19 outbreak. A report by the University of NSW shows high risk experienced by disability support workers in the early stages of the pandemic. The responses in the survey are based on the experiences of 2,341 disability workers in Australia. The key findings were: 

  • There are widespread perceptions that the disability workforce is being dangerously overlooked in pandemic response, and many workers are worried about the ongoing impacts of lack of planning in their organisation and for the disability sector as a whole.
  • Workers have been particularly worried about day programs and community access activities remaining in operation; group homes remaining open to other workers delivering NDIS services and supports to residents, along with visitors; and disruption to clients’ routines and activities, which has created additional risks to client wellbeing and safety.
  • Staff are extremely anxious about the situation, and workforce issues and additional workloads have made it difficult to respond to heightened health and safety needs.
  • Some workers have lost jobs or shifts and are uncertain about the future of their work, and many expressed concerns about their inability to effectively self-isolate, and the financial impacts of doing so.

The Council for Intellectual Disability has published an Easy Read document on COVIDSafe app.

Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) is running a national education survey on COVID-19 for carers of children and young people with disability. To find out more, click here.

The National Disability Insurance Agency is working closely with the wider disability sector to provide specific information packs to support them through the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. The first information pack published relates specifically to Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) – Children aged 0 to 6 years old.

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.