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 31 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.

Carers Australia has advocated that a further one-off payment of $750 to all unpaid carers receiving carer payments across Australia would go some way to providing the support they need to continue caring during the ongoing uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic brings. 

EnergyAustralia has joined AGL and Origin Energy in announcing price reductions, which mean in the coming weeks electricity prices will fall for around 2.8 million households and businesses.  Customers in New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory will benefit from the changes, with savings varying by state.

The Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, says energy retailers will be required to provide extended relief to households and small businesses experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. Chief Executive of the Australian Energy Council, Sarah McNamara, has said providers ‘stand ready and willing’ to help customers experiencing financial hardship, but noted there is a ‘critical need for government’ among other stakeholders to consider what further steps may be needed in coming months. 

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has called on the Federal Government to extend paid pandemic leave for every Australian worker. Representatives from the ACTU has noted that while the pandemic leave is a win for aged care workers, the ruling excludes those working casually or with irregular hours.

Following the release of a report from the Productivity Commission, the ACTU are calling for greater focus on young people and a clear plan for economic recovery. The report Why Did Young People’s Incomes Decline? highlighted that:

  • Young people entered the COVID-19 crisis earning low wages and with limited savings points
  • Low wage growth has disproportionately impacted young people, and led to them losing a decade of income growth
  • Declines in hours worked and in wage rates both contributed to the decline in young people’s wage income
  • Since the beginning of the pandemic, young people have suffered the largest increases in unemployment and the biggest fall in jobs.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced late last week the changing focus of the National
COVID-19 Coordination Commission, which will now give greater attention to creating jobs and stimulating the economy. The Commission has been re-named the National COVID-19 Commission Advisory Board, to reflect its commitment to the economy’s recovery.

Specific information for carers of older people

The Commonwealth and State/Territory Governments are requiring aged care workers in specific regions to wear face masks for the delivery of residential or in-home aged care services. This applies to all aged care workers, subcontractors of approved aged care providers. This also includes staff delivering direct personal and clinical care as well as staff that provide other support services, such as cleaning and catering.

The National Medical Stockpile is providing masks to aged care services in specific declared community transmission regions in NSW – designated areas are currently Parramatta, Fairfield, Liverpool, Campbelltown, Camden, Wingecarribee and Wollondilly.

Aged care providers are reminded of the need to ensure aged care staff have completed the COVID-19 infection control online training that is available for health care workers in all settings. This training covers the fundamentals of infection prevention and control for COVID-19.

Aged and Community Services (ACSA) advocates that while hospitalisation of aged care residents has increased, this should occur as soon as an aged care resident tests positive to COVID-19, in order to prevent major outbreaks of COVID-19 and maximises chances of survival.

Each state and territory has resources available for aged care providers to assist them in managing COVID-19. These resources are being updated regularly. The ‘First 24 hours - Managing COVID-19 in a residential aged care facility’ is a recently published Department of Health resource.

Additional training modules, specifically designed for aged care workers are available. The training can be accessed here.

The Select Committee on COVID-19 has revealed that only 66,000 people had completed aged care training in Personal Protective Equipment by early June 2020 – Australia’s aged care workforce is estimated to be more than 360,000. In addition, answers received through the Select Committee on COVID-19 have revealed that the Federal Government provided just one social worker to communicate with families and loved ones at Newmarch House, and only after a number of residents already tested positive to COVID-19 at the aged care facility.

The United Workers Union have surveyed 1,000 aged care workers. Results show gaps in pandemic preparations, issues surrounding staff shortages and increased workloads, as well as structural issues and barriers. According to the survey, three in 10 residential aged care workers said that they had received no additional training in coronavirus safety measures or correctly using personal protective equipment. More than two thirds of aged care workers do not feel very prepared to deal with a coronavirus outbreak and four in 10 workers felt that their aged care facility had not communicated their infection plan well. One in three care workers said they did not have enough supplies of hand sanitiser and gloves.

The Australian College of Nursing has highlighted that the need for increased clinical care and trained staff in facilities is a long term issue that precedes the pandemic, continuing to call for Government to tie regulation of aged care facilities to having Registered Nurses on-site and leading the delivery of care.

Complaints to the aged care regulator grew by more than 50 percent from February 2020 to April 2020, with almost 750 complaints about Australia’s nursing homes in just one month.

New translations of the updated industry-led Visitor Access Code for residential aged care facilities are now available on the COTA website.

The Chair of the Aged Care Royal Commission has made a statement about the limitations of the RCAC's investigation into COVID-19, noting that a separate aged care COVID-19 inquiry would be warranted.

Specific information for carers of people with disabilities

A new, easy read version of “What you must do under new coronavirus rules is now available.

NDIS participants in NSW and Victoria are now able to claim for Protective Personal Equipment (PPE), including masks, if they receive an average of at least one hour a day of face-to-face daily living supports, and live in Victoria or New South Wales.

NDIS plans are not being adjusted for eligible participants to purchase PPE. Participants should manage PPE purchases from their existing core supports budget. Participants can use the Low Cost Disability-Related Health Consumables line item in their core supports budget to purchase PPE. Read more from the NDIA on PPE here or in Your health and safety FAQs

NDIS participants living in their own home who test positive to COVID-19 and are required to self-isolate or quarantine will now be able to claim for related cleaning costs.

Participants who live in Supported Independent Living (SIL) and non-SIL arrangements now have access to additional Assistance with Daily Living (ADL) and Short Term Accommodation (STA) as needed when quarantining or self-isolating, as required. More information is available on the NSIS website.

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care has released new cognitive impairment consumer resources.

These resources are on the Commission website and on the cognitivecare.gov.au site along with new COVID-19 resources for people with cognitive impairment. Please see guides attached above.

The Disability Royal Commission has released a schedule of public hearings for the rest of the year. The Chair, Ronald Sackville AO QC said the Royal Commission’s program has been significantly affected by the unprecedented and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The next hearing will be held in Sydney from 18- 21 August, and will investigate the experiences of people with disability during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Disability Royal Commission has launched an animation to help raise awareness about the many different ways people can share their story – by phone, email, via the website or by making a video or audio recording.

The commonwealth, state and territory disability ministers met on Friday 24 July. The notes from their meeting advise that:

  • The ministers are continuing to closely monitor the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic across Australia, including the evolving situation in Victoria.
  • The ministers acknowledged the need for adequate workforce supply to support people with disability and NDIS participants.
  • The ministers reiterated their joint commitment to ensuring ongoing support and the safety of people with disability, including NDIS participants, during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
  • There have been a number of enquiries considering the quality and safety of supports for people. The ministers agreed to work together in a coordinated fashion to respond to the enquiries and better identify and support at-risk and vulnerable people with disability, including NDIS participants.

New research released by Children and Young People with Disability (CYDA) has indicated that Australian students with disability were not adequately supported by the education system during COVID-19. Data shows that 61 percent of respondents said they had received inadequate support during their remote learning. More than half of the respondents said that students with disability did not have regular contact with their school to ensure the learning was accessible.

Two separate toolkits were recently released to assist both individuals living with disabilities and vulnerable older people:

Person-Centred Emergency Preparedness Toolkit

This toolkit has been designed to be used by service providers to support people with chronic health conditions and disability. The kit can be used to facilitate meaningful conversations with clients to:

  • Improve emergency preparedness for people with chronic health conditions and disability
  • Reduce negative consequences of disaster triggered by natural hazard emergencies, and
  • Improve recovery following a natural hazard event.

ACT! A Collaborative Toolkit - Preparing Older People for Emergencies

This toolkit supports service providers to empower older people to make decisions about preparing for emergencies, and also builds the capacity of staff and volunteers on how to discuss emergency preparedness with their clients, and make referrals to emergency services.

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.