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 28 May, 2020

New relaxations of some restrictions have been announced as coming in from Monday 1 June, 2020 which include:

  • Travel to regional NSW for a holiday
  • Visits to museums, galleries and libraries
  • Pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants can have up to 50 customers.

The Australian Government has reported that the initial cost of the JobKeeper payment scheme has been incorrectly forecast and will cost approximately $70 billion as opposed to $130 billion. The Greens are calling on the government to use the excess funding to top up the Disability Support Pension and Carer Payments and increase jobseeker payments following September 2020.  

The No One Left Behind bill to be introduced in parliamentary sittings from Wednesday 10 June will seek:

  • The payment of the full $550 per week coronavirus supplement to Disability Support Pension and carers payment recipients
  • The extension of JobKeeper eligibility to casuals employed less than 12 months, workers with intermittent employment histories, university staff and temporary visa holders, including international students.

The Government announced the JobMaker Package, the latest initiative to stimulate the economy. The initial stages of this package will involve in-depth consultation with employers, industry groups, employee representatives and the government to develop a job making agenda for Australia’s industrial relations system. Training and skills will also be a focus.

The Tenants’ Union has published a Renters Guide to COVID-19 covering common questions about renting and COVID-19 in NSW. It has been developed to provide legal information about situations that may arise as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The legal information provided here does not constitute legal advice. Always, seek advice from your local Tenants' Advice and Advocacy Service about your options – tenants.org.au/get-advice.

Specific information for carers of older people

From Monday 22 May, telephone and telehealth assessments no longer need to be the default for community-based aged care assessments. Regional Assessment Services (RAS) and Aged Care Assessment Teams (ACATs) will continue to consider their local circumstances and client choice when deciding how to conduct aged care assessments. Face-to-face assessments should be offered where it is possible and safe. RAS and ACATs will have protocols in place to return to telephone assessments should a local outbreak occur. Aged care assessors will explain any timing constraints on face-to-face assessments to clients and discuss immediate care needs over the phone, so clients can be supported to seek services. This will minimise any potential risks to the health and safety of clients while they wait for their face-to-face assessment.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has released a new fact sheet on the Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes during COVID-19. The fact sheet provides further explanation of the new Code, including how it complements the existing regulatory framework. The Code sets out the aged care industry’s expectations on how to support residents receiving visitors while also keeping them safe and protected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Translated versions of the Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes during COVID-19 are available on the department’s website - 18 language translations are available.

The Code’s principles:

  • Create a nationally consistent approach
  • To ensure visitors can attend, while minimising the risk of spreading COVID
  • The impact on the mental health of residents cannot be over overestimated
  • Where a person has a loss of stimulus, it can exacerbate their cognitive decline
  • To ensure safety and health of residents and aged care workers
  • The charter of aged care rights should still be maintained

How the Code will be enforced:

The Code is a voluntary industry code adopted by peak provider and consumer organisations following widespread consultation. It is not an instrument under the Act – it is preferable that people follow it. The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) has been tasked with overseeing the Code, including:

  • Evidence of how the aged care provider is applying the Code in relation to the aged care quality standards
  • Responding to complaints about visitor access, having regard to the Aged care quality standards and the providers’ application of the Code

Examples of the Code being implemented and its effect:

  • Dementia Australia received fewer calls from distressed family members.
  • Some families and carers have reported a deterioration in their loved one’s wellbeing since they last saw them, before the COVID-19 restrictions were implemented.
  • Many families reported having less time to spend with their loved one, due to the need to receive information and a hand-over from the aged care home.  
  • Some NDIS Support workers have been unable to visit a person with younger onset dementia in an aged care home.

If people are concerned that their aged care provider is not adhering to the Code, they are recommend to:

1.       Talk to the aged care provider

2.       Seek advocacy support by calling OPAN on 1800 700 600 or visiting opan.com.au

3.       Contact the Aged Care Quality & Safety Commission by calling 1800 951 822.

A national study by Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) highlights the extensive work of home care providers in increasing support and combating COVID-19 distress among their clients, even as some postponed services. Sixty-four providers who care for more than 90,000 older Australians were surveyed, covering the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP), Home Care Packages (HCP), private full-fee home care and Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) providers. The survey shows:

  • almost 90 percent of providers have increased regular telephone contacts
  • 84 percent have implemented special grocery shopping
  • 75 percent have put in place video monitoring and social support
  • 41 percent are working digitally to connect friends and family.

The survey found 40 percent of home care providers said COVID-19 infection fears affected their clients’ wellbeing concerns ‘a great deal’ or ‘a lot’, while 42 percent said isolation affected the wellbeing of clients ‘a great deal’ or ‘a lot’. In response, providers have increased their provision of essential services and support with:

  • 54 percent increasing social support
  • 49 percent increasing meal services
  • 48 percent increasing individual respite
  • 34 increasing transport.

The Australian Government is supporting senior Australians through two new initiatives to prevent loneliness and social isolation under a $6 million communications package.

  • Almost $5 million will be used to significantly expand Friend Line
  • $1 million in grants to 215 local community organisations to provide at-risk seniors with digital devices such as mobile phones and laptops.

The Department of Health has advised that blanket testing of all residents or staff of a residential aged care service who do not have any symptoms, or who have no history of close contact or international travel, is not recommended. However, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has published advice that recommends testing where staff or residents exhibit symptoms. Given the high risk of aged care facilities, this extends to recommending testing even for those staff or residents who display non-standard or atypical symptoms. To assist residential aged care facilities in managing the risk of introducing COVID-19 into a facility, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission recently wrote to all residential aged care facilities providing entry screening advice for residential aged care facilities to assist in preventing transmission.

Dementia Australia has launched a new campaign urging all Australians to take a pledge to help keep the world open for people living with dementia, not just during the COVID-19 pandemic, but every day. Dementia Australia invites all Australians to find out more and dementia, discrimination, see some practical tips, and to take the pledge by visiting their website.

Specific information for carers of people with disability

The Department of Health has published some new fact sheets for supporting people with disability through COVID-19:

There are also a number of fact sheets for Health Workers on providing health care to people with intellectual or developmental disability available here, including one where carer inclusion is explicitly mentioned (emergency departments fact sheet).   

Information in other languages about COVID-19 is now available on the NDIS website: https://www.ndis.gov.au/coronavirus/information-languages

A new report from Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) looks at the experience of children and young people with disability and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key findings from the new report, produced in partnership with the University of New South Wales, Canberra, are:

  • Survey responses clearly demonstrated there was a lack of information about the coronavirus targeted to children and young people with disability and their families, with 82% stating they lacked information.
  • This lack of information targeted to the particular needs of households exacerbated distress and uncertainty.
  • Uncertainty about education was a prominent theme, including school closures and challenges with learning from home, and that progress gained by children and young people with disability would be lost during this period.
  • Half of survey respondents experienced a decline in their mental health either for themselves or for the child or young person with disability. This increased over the period of the survey.
  • The majority of respondents were unable to buy essential supplies, e.g. groceries, special dietary products, hygiene products, which peaked at the commencement of the pandemic period. Many of these essential goods were necessary for the children and young people with disability because of their conditions.
  • One in three respondents experienced cancellation of support workers (either by self or service) and NDIS services.
  • There was significant concern in survey responses that people might lose work or be required to give up work due to the COVID-19 pandemic to care for their children, and this would have an impact on household income.

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.