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 Friday 22 May 2020

The Caring Fairly Coalition conducted a survey to capture unpaid carers’ experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings draw on 471 responses, collected from carers across Australia.

The results confirm the significant impact the outbreak is having on unpaid carers, across all areas – from economic security, to the amount of time spent on care and carers’ health and wellbeing.

Results from the survey of carers on the impacts of COVID-19 indicate that:

Impact on work and income:

  • 42 percent of carers had lost some or all of their regular income
  • 40 percent have worked fewer hours because they have had to provide extra support to the person they care for.
  •  22 percent have worked fewer hours because their employer did not have enough work for them.
  • A further 10 per cent had lost their job since COVID-19.
  • 71 percent experienced increased living costs
  • 58 percent have had to spend more money on support for the person they care for, with groceries, cleaning, healthcare and medications being the top categories where carers reported increased costs.

Impact on carer health and wellbeing:

  • 81 percent reported their mental health had deteriorated since the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 88 percent experienced increased stress in their role as a carer.
  • 52 percent reported their stress had increased by ‘a lot’ or ‘an extreme amount’.

The results from the Caring Fairly COVID-19 carer survey will be used to raise awareness about the impact the outbreak has had on carers and for Caring Fairly’s ongoing advocacy to the Government to better support carers through the pandemic and beyond. More information about Caring Fairly and the survey results can be found here.

Carers Australia responded to the Caring Fairly COVID-19 carer survey with a media release noting that almost 30 percent of respondents were reliant on the Carer Payment for basic income support, 12 percent of respondents on the Carer Payment have lost what work they did have, and a further 64 percent have had to reduce their hours, either because their employer does not have enough work for them, or because they have more hours of care with the loss of service support. Carers Australia recommend that, at the very least, the Government seriously considers adding a third $750 lump sum payment to support people on the Carer Payment.

The National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) has established a not-for-profit working group to provide recommendations to lessen the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable people in society and the sector that supports them. The advisory group will:

  • Gather information from the sector on the impact COVID-19 is having on vulnerable Australians, and advise on how responses by the sector, business, the community and governments could be better tailored to meet their needs.
  • Identify barriers to organisations continuing to deliver vital services to the community and working with the NCCC and governments to address these.
  • Encourage vulnerable Australians to effectively participate in Australia’s economic recovery efforts.
  • Identify opportunities for not-for-profits to contribute to the Australian community during the COVID-19 crisis and in the vital rebuilding phase to follow.

The Australian Government and all State and Territory governments have agreed to jointly invest in a new $80 million infection control training fund. The fund will support customer-facing businesses to train workers in how to minimise the risk of spread of COVID-19 and support them to re-open safely. The fund will enable the rollout of new infection control short courses, the first national training product developed by the new Australian Industry Skills Emergency Response Sub-Committee in response to COVID-19.

The Premier of NSW this week encouraged commuters to avoid peak hour travel on trains and buses, which are already at capacity within physical distancing restrictions. Transport apps now indicate vehicle capacity and the NSW Government is looking at possible event parking options for high density work districts.

Visits to museums, galleries and libraries will be allowed, as well as travel within regional NSW for a holiday from 1 June, 2020.

Finances

A new report from the Grattan Institute has reported that between 14 and 26 per cent of Australian workers could be out of work as a direct result of the COVID-19 shutdown, and that Australia is facing one of the largest drops in economic activity in its history. The report suggests COVID-19 will have a significant impact on jobs and the economy for years to come.

Services Australia has developed an eKit of resources to help organisations connect their clients to Services Australia’s payments and services. The eKit contains factsheets about COVID-19 support, a FDV checklist, videos, and resources in Easy Read English and 30 languages.

BeyondBlue has a step-by-step guide on how to restructure finances to help manage funds and smooth the transition while looking for another job.

People living in rental properties who have lost income and may need to re-negotiate their rent, may find new resources produced by Redfern Legal Centre useful in navigating the complexities. The videos, along with links to fact sheets and advice services, are on their website.

The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment has published two fact sheets about how to save on energy costs while staying at home during COVID-19: one generic factsheet and one specifically for Aboriginal communities. Tips include:

  • having shorter showers
  • washing clothes on a cold water setting
  • using less hot water
  • closing doors, windows and curtains to prevent heat from escaping
  • switching off appliances at the wall  
  • using lids on pots to speed up cooking.

The Consumer Action Law Centre has launched an online form to enable people to share their experiences of financial hardship during the COVID-19 emergency. The goal is to help track the severity and breadth of financial hardship during the crisis, and assess the effectiveness of government and industry responses.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has released an update on unpaid pandemic leave as well as how the Jobkeeper scheme interacts with pay and leave entitlements. The Fair Work Commission has added a temporary new schedule into 99 awards to provide greater flexibility during the pandemic. The temporary schedule gives employees two weeks of unpaid pandemic leave and the ability to take twice as much annual leave at half their normal pay, if their employer agrees.

Mental health

The Mental Health Commission of NSW and the NSW Government are providing $800,000 to set up a phone line which will enable people who may be experiencing distress to connect quickly with peer workers, who have travelled their own journey of mental health recovery and can provide hope for others. The phone line will commence operating from mid-June 2020 and be ramped up to full operation by mid-July, providing services from 10am to 4pm and again from 6pm to 10pm 7 days a week. More information can be found here.

New national research by UNICEF Australia has found that:

  • The proportion of young people in Australia (aged 13 to 17 years) who feel they can cope well with life has almost halved, from 81 per cent to 45 per cent since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 26 percent of young people in Australia consider that they have not been afforded the same importance as other groups.
  • 44 percent feel that there has been little recognition that many young people are either on the front line as workers in retail and food stores or services that remained open.
  • 40 percent of young people see many of the discussions about children and young people (e.g. school closures) as not really being about them, but more about impact on parents, carers and the economy.
  • 70 percent of young people in Australia said the pandemic response had negatively impacted their social connectedness, and six in ten (61 percent) their day-to-day life.
  • The vast majority experienced having to stop physically seeing their friends (88 percent) and having their education disrupted or stopped entirely (86 percent).
  • 28 percent have had their parent/s or carer lose income, while one in five work in a job that could put them at risk of contracting the virus (21 percent).
  • Psychologically, almost half (47 percent) say it has negatively impacted their levels of stress and anxiety, and 34 percent their level of hope.

Loneliness was the most widely reported source of personal stress for Australians during April, according to the third ABS Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey. Loneliness affected more women (28 percent) than men (16 percent). Around one in five people (19 percent) also reported that they were experiencing difficulties maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

New research launched this week in response to COVID-19, reveals that recent workplace changes have had a major impact on Australia’s mental health.

  • Those who relied on their workplace for social stimulation are more affected by these changes.
  • Those who had relatively good mental health prior to the pandemic are reporting greater changes to their mental health.
  • Respondents who have been living with mental health problems for some time are reporting less changes as a result of these restrictions.
  • 87 percent of respondents reported a significant change to their workplace since the crisis began. 63 percent agreed these changes have had an impact on their mental health.

Covid-19 Impact - a series of webinars from the National LGBTI Health Alliance will occur on Wednesday 27 May, 3 and 10 June. This is a series of webinars aiming to increase awareness of broader health and wellbeing issues for LGBTI communities in the time of COVID-19.

Specific information for carers of older people

The Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line - 1800 171 866 - provides information and support to senior Australians, their families and carers. Call Monday to Friday, except public holidays, from 8.30am to 6pm.

Older Persons Advocacy Network, OPAN, are running a webinar Update: Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes on Saturday 27 May 2020. Older people receiving aged care, their families, friends and representatives are encouraged to participate. The webinar will discuss the key changes between the draft and final versions of the Code, provide information about how to seek help if you have concerns with how the Code is being implemented, and ask participants for their feedback on the latest Code and how it can be further improved.

Get Started is a free mobile app from BeConnected that’s designed to help people assist an older friend or relative get online and stay connected during social distancing. It includes a five step plan, videos, courses and local face-to-face support Australia wide.

A major investigation into the care that older Australians provide at home has been released this week by National Seniors Australia. Older carers are leading contributors to the social fabric of Australia, and yet their work often goes unrecognised, unacknowledged and unsupported. The key findings of the Report “Who Cares? Seniors Do” were:

  • Of the 4,139 participants aged 50 and over in the survey, 22 per cent were providing care to partners, parents and adult children, and were unpaid.
  • They spent an average of 26 hours a week caring, and some were full-time, 7-days a week.
  • Over half of these unpaid carers provided high to medium levels of care.
  • Most did not have care plans, nor had they accessed government support.
  • More practical, psychological and informational support is needed to maintain this essential unpaid workforce.

Commonwealth Home Support funded social support groups will start to change with the
three-phase easing of restrictions. Where state and territory restrictions permit, providers may
re-commence delivery of face to face social support activities (with appropriate safeguards in place).

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. The Commission’s screening recommendations for all residential aged care facilities include:

  • A single point of entry
  • Screening questions for staff and visitors
  • A no-touch temperature check

A new aged care page is available on the Department of Health website. It provides resources and advice for aged care providers and workers who deliver services in residential aged care and in-home care settings. Aged care and residential care facilities are high-risk settings for COVID-19.

Safe Work Australia released new advice by the industry to help minimise the risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission in the workplace. Aged care providers must implement control measures to eliminate or minimise the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the health and safety of their workers, residents and others at the workplace. This is a requirement under Work Health and Safety laws.

The Australian Government Department of Health has published a range of specific resources on COVID-19 for aged care providers, including those providing in-home care. Further information is available from:

Translated COVID-19 aged care resources by language are available on the Australian Government Department of Health website.

Specific information for carers of people with disability

The National Disability Insurance Agency is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by making some changes to better support participants. Improvements have been made to support more flexible use of the plan for disability-related supports and services. The changes include:

  • Core Supports budget flexibility - participants with a Core Support budget who are either Plan or Agency-managed, will be able to utilise all four funding categories within core supports (including transport), without the need for a plan review.
  • Where a plan review has been delayed, plans will be automatically extended for 365 days. In some circumstances, participants will have to budget for things like repairs and maintenance to assistive technology equipment, added in the automatic plan review.
  • Changes to service bookings - the NDIA has removed the restriction around changing service bookings, so that participants and providers can edit these service bookings. This change will affect all active service bookings created for a service/item that required a quote, for example, supported independent living, Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) and Assistive Technology (AT).

The National Disability Insurance Agency has launched a new Early Intervention Early Childhood FAQ web page addressing questions on early childhood supports and services. More information is available here.

Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) have released recordings of their recent webinars that addressed issues, such as:

  • How the National Disability Insurance Agency has been supporting people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • How the NDIA is automatically extending plans by 12 months and providing consistency for people to continue to access the supports that they need.
  • Transitioning to work or further education from school.
  • Transferring funding from one funding line to another, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The webinars are available below:

 

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.