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 3 July 2020

This week, Federal Treasury announced a series of economic measures to support Australians as they transition through COVID-19:

  • Tax relief for low and middle-income earners when they lodge tax returns from 1 July, 2020. Those eligible will receive tax relief of up to $1,080 at the end of the financial year. 
  • The Government is providing two separate $750 payments to social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders. Around half of those that benefit are pensioners. These payments support households to manage the economic impact of COVID-19. The second payment will be available to people who are eligible payment recipients and concession card holders on Friday 10 July, 2020.
  • The Government has increased the Medicare levy low income thresholds for individuals and families, and individuals and families eligible for Senior and Pensioner Tax Offset in line with movements in the Consumer Price Index.

The Senate Select Committee discovered this week that carers are likely to face financial strain for longer than people who are not in a caring role, as they continue to support their care recipients who remain vulnerable. Other financial issues for carers that were revealed at the meeting, include:

  • Carers remain hesitant about allowing services into their home.
  • While carers may be managing currently, there are reports that they are accumulating debt to cover costs.

At the Senate Select Committee meeting this week, it was learnt that:

  • Many carer service providers have introduced new online or digital activities that foster carer interaction and support wellbeing. However, they have done so at their own cost or diversion of their resources, with no additional government support.
  • It is expected that demand for carer supports will increase later into the year and next year as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and continues to place strain on carer health and wellbeing.

A national survey by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) of 955 people currently receiving JobSeeker, Youth Allowance or other social security payments with the Coronavirus Supplement shows the difference it has made to their lives. The survey found that before the introduction of the Coronavirus Supplement, there were very high rates of financial and personal distress among people on JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance and other payments.

The survey reported:

  • 66 percent of people had less than $14 a day to live on, after paying their rent or mortgage.
  • 75 percent of people said that they skipped meals because of a lack of funds, with 20 percent of people saying that they were skipping at least one meal a day.
  • 70 percent of people were struggling with medical costs, including the costs of medicines and seeing a dentist, as well as specialist services, like physiotherapy.

After the introduction of the Coronavirus Supplement, there were significant declines in the number of people reporting hardship:

  • 83 percent reported that they were eating healthier meals.
  • 75 percent reported that they were now able to catch up on bills.
  • 69 percent reported that they were finding it easier to pay their rent, or were considering moving into safer or more appropriate accommodation.

Health Consumers NSW has published a number of resources / web pages with links on COVID-19, including:

The Department of Home Affairs has established a dedicated website - COVID-19 Information in your language - providing culturally and linguistically diverse communities with a single source of information in 63 languages other than English. The following fact sheets are available in a variety of translations:

Other translated resources, including the aged care visitor access code, can be found on the Department of Health’s website.

Specific information for carers of older people

The Department of Health has developed a FAQ fact sheet regarding flu vaccination in residential aged care premises. It states that entry to residential aged care facilities is restricted to people who have had a current flu injection. This applies to staff, visitors, health practitioners, volunteers and other people entering the facility (for example – cleaners, tradespeople, gardeners and maintenance staff.) All Australian Government subsidised residential aged care providers must offer staff and volunteers free access to annual flu vaccinations. This is at the provider’s cost. Aged care providers must also sight appropriate evidence of immunisation status from visitors and workers.

The Department of Health has engaged Recruitment, Consulting and Staffing Association (RCSA) and Healthcare Australia (HCA) to provide a ‘surge workforce’, commencing this week, to ensure the continuity of aged care during COVID-19. A ‘surge workforce’ is made up of staff members who are currently working in functions that are not critical, who can move across to roles considered to be critical in the response to COVID-19.

Registration is available here for a webinar on Engaging your Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Seniors in times of COVID-19 run by Partners in Culturally Appropriate Care (PICAC) Alliance. The webinar will discuss: strategies to meet the needs of culturally diverse clients, examples of good practice from a range of aged care providers across Australia and their strategies to meet the needs of CALD clients, and ideas of where Australia’s aged care is heading in the future.

The Older Persons Advocacy Network is seeking feedback on their COVID-19 webinar series for older Australians. They have held 11 webinars addressing different aspects of COVID-19 and its impact on aged care services. The survey takes no longer than 10 minutes and closes on Friday 10 July, 2020.

Specific information for carers of people with disabilities

The Senate Select Committee meeting this week heard from a number of carer and disability representative organisations, including Carers Australia and Carers ACT. The main issues raised by Carers Australia, were:

  • Lack of acknowledgement or recognition of the vital role carers have played during COVID-19 in supporting their care recipients throughout the pandemic. 
  • Carers have been under more pressure due to: more intensive caring roles, less formal and informal support (including respite), and increased financial strain resulting from increased living costs and loss of work due to COVID-19. 

The Senate Select Committee also heard that the approach to providing information and support to carers and service providers was different across health, disability and aged care sectors, making it difficult for service providers to support carers through COVID-19. Generally, there was a lack of information for people with disability, information available was NDIS driven and did not consider people with disability not accessing NDIS. Information for people with disability is now being developed or collated.

Disability representative organisations raised a number of issues at the Senate Select Committee meeting that may further impact on carers, including:

  • Disability advocates were unable to visit people with disability to support them, as they were not considered ‘essential workers’. There was no clear health guidance or advice for advocates provided during COVID-19.
  • Visitation restrictions were placed on supported residential accommodation for people with disability.
  • At least 25 percent of people with disability cannot access support over the phone or internet (AFDO), and there has not been enough alternative supports made available to these people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Findings from A Children and Young People with Disability Australia survey were shared at the meeting. These findings revealed that for students with disability, 60 per cent were reported not to have received adequate support in their education during the pandemic. Less than half had regular contact with their education provider to ensure that learning was accessible. Only half said curriculum and learning materials were in accessible formats. And, 53 percent reported a decline in their mental health and wellbeing.

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 NSW is seeking further feedback from carers and service providers on the present challenges carers are experiencing as a result of COVID-19. The Policy Team is accepting expressions of interest to be involved in a second Zoom consultation regarding these challenges. You can also complete our online Policy Advice Form survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/policy_advice_form or email Carers NSW on contact@carersnsw.org.au.

 

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