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 24 July 2020

Wearing a face mask in Australia is now recommended by health experts in areas where community transmission of COVID-19 is high or whenever physical distancing is not possible.

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare has released a document outlining the use of facemasks.

The most important things that you can do to protect yourself and others are to:

  • Stay at home when you are unwell, with even mild respiratory symptoms
  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub
  • Do not touch your face
  • Do not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the virus
  • Stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people (physical distancing)
  • Cover your mouth when you cough by coughing into your elbow, or into a tissue. Throw the tissue away immediately.

The Federal Government announced it will extend the JobKeeper payment for a further six months to March 2021. Support will be targeted to businesses and not-for-profit organisations that continue to be significantly impacted by COVID-19.

  • From 28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021, the JobKeeper payment rate will be:
    • $1,200 per fortnight for all eligible employees who were working for 20 hours or more a week.
    • $750 per fortnight for other eligible employees / business participants, working less than 20 hours per week.
  • From 4 January 2021, JobKeeper payment will reduce to $1,000 per fortnight and $650 a fortnight respectively.
  • Eligibility to access the scheme extensions will change following September 28, 2020 and January 4, 2021 respectively.
  • The JobKeeper Payment will continue to remain open to new recipients, provided they meet the existing eligibility requirements and the additional turnover tests during the extension period.

JobSeeker payments

  • The Federal Government has announced it will extend the payment period for the Coronavirus Supplement Payment from 25 September, 2020 to 31 December, 2020.
  • From 25 September, 2020 the Supplement Payment will be reduced to $250 per fortnight.
  • Both existing and new recipients of eligible payments will continue to be paid the Coronavirus Supplement Payment.
  • Changes are being made to the JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance (other) income tests to improve the incentive for individuals to re-enter the workforce or take on additional work - from 25 September, 2020 until 31 December, 2020, the income free area for JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance (other) will increase from $106 per fortnight for JobSeeker Payment and $143 per fortnight for Youth Allowance (other) to $300 per fortnight for both.
  • Access to payments will change from 25 September 2020, to ensure appropriate targeting of income support. These changes include means testing, partner income testing and Liquid Assets Waiting Period (LAWP). Expanded criteria to greater access/eligibility and the Ordinary Waiting Period / Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period will be maintained.  
  • Mutual obligations will continue. These obligations are:
    • voluntary job searches
    • at least one phone or online appointment with a jobseeker’s employment services provider
    • voluntary participation in activities, either online or in person
    • no payment suspensions or penalties for failure to comply.

New economic modelling from The Australia Institute has shown that if the government removed the Coronavirus Supplement in September 2020, it would be forcing more than 650,000 Australians, including 120,000 children, to live in poverty, 21 percent below the poverty line. At present, the Coronavirus Supplement has lifted 425,000 people out of poverty.

The Greens have continued to voice their concerns regarding the reintroduction of the assets test and liquid asset test in relation to JobSeeker payment eligibility. Senator Rachel Siewart has expressed particular concern for those who are older and ineligible for JobSeeker based on the reinstated asset tests, and the fact that they may be forced to use their personal savings before they are able to access income support, impacting their financial security as they enter retirement.

Council on the Ageing (COTA) has called on the Federal Government to reverse its decision to reinstate the Liquid Assets Waiting Period from the end of September, at least for unemployed mature workers, who will be among the most vulnerable amid what will be a long term recession.

Anglicare Australia and GetUp have also raised concerns on this issue and note that the reduced payments will push many Australians and their children into poverty. The Australian Council of Social Services has commented that the reductions in JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments do not provide people who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic with economic certainty or security.

Mental health

The Mental Health Council of Tasmania has developed a #Check in website for Tasmanians to check in on their own mental health, on a friend or family member, and on what’s happening in their local community. By answering some easy questions on the website, people can find guidance around what supports and information is available in Tasmania to help with their mental health and/or of someone they care about.

Specific information for carers of older people

The Department of Health has advised that home care service providers must maintain vigilance to prevent COVID-19, as outbreaks continue to emerge in Victoria and NSW.

NSW Health recommends the following measures:

  • Staff with fever / respiratory symptoms (even mild symptoms) should be excluded from work, advised to isolate at home and be tested.

  • Staff who have been in Victoria in the last two weeks should be excluded from providing home care services.
  • Staff who reside in the Fairfield, Liverpool, Campbelltown, Camden, Wingecarribee and Wollondilly local government areas must wear a surgical mask while providing services until at least the end of July 2020.
  • When providing care to clients who live in, or have visited the above local government areas, staff must wear a surgical mask until at least the end of July 2020.
  • Staff are to actively ask clients about symptoms on arrival. If staff become aware of a client with symptoms, that client should be isolated from others and tested.

The Australian Government is prioritising Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) distribution from the National Medical Stockpile to aged care services that are most in need.

Due to COVID-19, Aged Care Assessment Teams (ACATs) are taking a flexible approach to the delivery of assessments. If necessary, ACATs can use emergency provisions under the Aged Care Act 1997 during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing a person to enter an aged care home for respite care without an ACAT approval.

Residential aged care facilities in the south-western Sydney local government areas have been advised not to allow any visitors until at least the end of July, 2020. Visitation restrictions will apply to anyone who has been in Fairfield, Liverpool, Campbelltown, Camden, Wingecarribee and Wollondilly in the previous two weeks, as well as to people who have been in Victoria. Measures such as phone or video calls are encouraged to be made available to all residents, to enable communication with family and friends.

Dementia Australia is calling for greater vigilance and care for people living with dementia during COVID-19. Impacts of the pandemic on people living with dementia include:

  • social isolation
  • limits on movement
  • changes in mood / cognition / routine
  • unsettled or unfamiliar staff
  • constant monitoring from people in masks or PPE.

Impact of the pandemic on carers:

  • Most family carers understand the rationale for strict protocols, but the isolation from a loved one is still deeply upsetting for them
  • Carers have reported feelings of grief and anxiety over the risk of neglect or harm, a loss of social connection, purpose and sense of self.

Dementia Australia are encouraging aged care to work closely with carers and family to support people living with dementia through the pandemic.

Specific information for carers of people with disabilities

The National Disability Insurance Agency has released new advice on facemasks, which is available here.  Most information is directed towards Victorian participants, given the mandatory wearing of face masks. While NSW Health has advised disability services providers in South Western Sydney wear masks when delivering supports, this has not been mentioned by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

NDIS funding cannot be used to fund Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), unless it was already part of the disability related needs prior to COVID-19.

Despite the recent increase in COVID-19 cases, there has been no mention of reinstating COVID-19 NDIS provisions, such as the COVID-19 10 percent price loading, cancellation policies or extended Medium Term Accommodation options, which ceased on 1 July 2020.

The Department of Health has published a Guide to personal protective equipment (PPE) for disability care providers – it is broadly aimed at both formal and informal carers of people with disability.

New COVID-19 resources in the form of short illustrated stories for children with disability can be found here https://www.autismlittlelearners.com/search/label/Blog?m=1

Other

Youth Action NSW is conducting consultations with young people about COVID-19 in the final week of July, including:

The prevalence of domestic violence among women during the COVID-19 pandemic is a new paper that presents the findings from an online survey of 15,000 Australian women about their experience of domestic violence during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

An article in the UK has reported on how COVID-19 has opened the eyes of everyday Britons to those who are working full time while caring for a family member or friend. The article states, “The coronavirus crisis has opened our eyes to numerous things over the past few months. Notable among them for many people is the difficulty of juggling full-time care – and of course homeschooling – with a full-time job. But for many other workers, this is far from a new reality, and in fact they’re used to coping with an even more demanding balancing act: that of caring for an ill, elderly or disabled family member, partner or friend, while holding down a job.”

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.

You can also provide feedback and your views by completing the Carers NSW 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.