Information regarding COVID-19

“We recognise that these are uncertain times and we are reaching out to address some thoughts you may be having around how Partners and Support Workers engage during this period.”


12 February 2021 Update

The Victorian Government has announced statewide Stage 4 restrictions for the next five days, commencing at 11:59pm on Friday, 12 February and concluding at 11:59pm on Wednesday, 17 February.

The Victorian Government has advised that worker permits for support workers are not required at this time.

However, as the situation is constantly evolving, please continue to check the following sites for the most current information:

NDIS continual updates on COVID-19
Australian Government COVID-19 updates
State Government of VIC COVID-19 updates


Who is at risk?

Click here to see the government’s advice on who is most at risk.

There are two distinct groups of people we must be aware of: those who are most at risk of coming in contact with the virus and those who are most at risk of developing a serious infection.

The list of people at risk of coming in contact with the virus is likely to grow significantly. But as it currently stands, people most at risk of coming in contact with the virus are:

  • People who have been overseas
  • People who have been in contact with someone with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19
  • People in detention facilities
  • People in group residential facilities
The list of people who are most at risk of developing a serious infection less likely to change. Many people with disability will fall into this group. It includes:
  • People with compromised immune systems
  • Elderly people
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (due to higher rates of chronic illness)
  • People with chronic medical conditions
  • People in group residential settings
  • Very young children and babies*

*Though the link between young children and COVID-19 is not well understood.


CAN I CONTINUE TO EMPLOY MY SUPPORT WORKERS DURING THIS TIME?

In our circumstances, this is a Partner’s case by case decision depending on whether it is safe for your Support Worker to continue providing care (you can utilise the Australian Government information above as your guide).

Support Workers undertake a wide variety of duties in many different settings and knowledge of the virus and its impact is changing rapidly therefore only general information can be provided.

CSA encourages both Partners and their Support Workers to stay in close contact with each other, during this period and prior to every proposed shift, to assess whether it is safe to work, taking into consideration your particular circumstances and the latest official government advice.

As a general rule, Government guidance indicates that it will be safe to continue a shift where the Partner, the Support Worker and any others that may need to be present in the work environment are healthy and do not present with Coronavirus symptoms and where recommended safety precautions are adhered to.


The following links also provide the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 and, like us, we urge you to follow them and visit them regularly as the situation continues to change and evolve:

NDIS continual updates on COVID-19

Australian Government COVID-19 updates

State Government of VIC COVID-19 updates

State Government of TAS COVID-19 updates

State Government of WA COVID-19 updates

State Government of NSW COVID-19 updates

All of this information is correct at the time of writing, but the nature of a public pandemic is that it is a fast-changing environment. We strongly recommend following those links for the most up to date information. 


Proof of essential work

We advise given the restrictions that are currently in place across all states should Support Workers be questioned by authorities as to where they are travelling to and from and for what purpose – that you produce a copy of your payslip.

Payslips are emailed to all Support Workers nominated email addresses, on a fortnightly basis. Should you need a copy of yours sent to you, do not hesitate to contact us.

Please note the states have released information surrounding what is classified as permitted work, and workplace guidelines with respect to COVID-19. We strongly recommend workers check the state government websites (links above) to ensure they comply with the relevant guidance.

JOBKEEPER PAYMENTS UPDATE

In April 2020, the Federal Government passed laws in relation to the JobKeeper payments. In summary, the Job Keeper payment is a wage subsidy paid to eligible employers worth $1,500 per fortnight for each of their eligible workers. Please see the government fact sheets for more information – Australian Government – JobKeeper Payments

CSA has sought legal advice regarding the application of this payment to Partners and their Support Workers. We have also sought advice regarding whether CSA can play a role in applying for and distributing the payment on behalf of Partners and their Support Workers.

The advice CSA has received is that Partners will not meet the eligibility criteria for the payment.

As this is a rapidly evolving pandemic, if we receive advice in future that Partners become eligible for the payment, CSA will update Partners and endeavour to play a role in administering the payment for Support Workers.


IF I CANNOT ACCESS JOBKEEPER PAYMENTS, WHAT GOVERNMENT FUNDING CAN I POTENTIALLY ACCESS? 

Support workers are likely to be eligible for the new JobSeeker payment however this will depend entirely on the individual circumstances of each worker. The JobSeeker Payment has the same basic qualification, pay ability and means testing rules as Newstart Allowance. For more information about JobSeeker, please go to – Australian Government – JobSeeker Payments

Alternatively, Support Workers may wish to review recently released information from the Federal Government around early access to Superannuation during COVID-19. For all the information in relation to this, including the criteria you must satisfy to be eligible visit –  Australian Government – Superannuation COVID-19


Important points about Carer Solutions Australia — key terms and responsibilities 

What is a Partner?
Clients of Carer Solutions Australia (CSA) are referred to as Partners. The Partner is someone living with a disability who wishes to engage a support worker to provide them with the care and support they need. Once the Partner has their funding in place—either from the NDIS, private or other sources—they select their Support Worker and approach CSA to manage the administrative side of the arrangement.

What does CSA do?
We support Partners to directly employ the Support Workers they need. We provide a number of initial and ongoing services. Including a fortnightly payroll administration service to ensure our Partners are meeting their obligations as an employer. However, we are not the legal employer of a Partner’s Support Worker(s).

What doesn’t CSA do?
We don’t find or employ Support Worker(s) for our Partners. Partners, or their family, are required to find the Support Worker(s) they need. We also don’t determine what the working relationship looks like. This for Partners and Support Workers to define together.

If I am a Support Worker, who do I work for?
You are employed, and therefore work for, the individual or family seeking support (our Partners). We simply facilitate the payment of your wages; make sure the correct amount of PAYG Withholding tax is withheld and sent to the ATO; that your superannuation is sent to your nominated super fund and; work with our Partners on insurances.


Temporary Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) COVID-19 Regulations

Partners, the new regulations below have come into effect and they apply to you. If you become aware that your support worker has been diagnosed with COVID-19, please notify WorkSafe immediately on 13 23 60

Additional details:

In this state of emergency and pandemic situation, timely notification of potential workplace transmission of COVID‑19 is critical for efficient and effective management of related health and safety risks, and the prompt investigation of potential breaches of employer duties.

The OHS COVID-19 Regulations extend the operation of Part 5 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) to require duty holders to notify WorkSafe if:

An employer becomes aware that an employee or independent contractor engaged by the employer, and any employees of the independent contractor, has received a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, and has attended the workplace within the infectious period (being 14 days prior to receiving the confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 and until clearance from isolation has been received)

The OHS COVID-19 Regulations are temporary in nature and will expire 12 months after their making. WorkSafe will review the OHS COVID-19 Regulations during the 12-month period of operation.

Click here for further information on the WorkSafe website.


Purchasing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The Victorian government has made it mandatory for all Victorians to wear face masks or face coverings including disability workers.

Given this, the NDIS has made a temporary change to funding arrangements so Partners can now recover their costs of purchasing PPE. Click this link to learn more.


NDIS support available in Victoria

The NDIA are encouraging participants that live in Victoria to contact the National Contact Centre on 1800 800 110 and select option 5 if their situation has changed due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

The NDIS has introduced a range of measures to ensure participants can continue to get the support they need including:

  • NDIS plans to be extended by up to 24 months, ensuring continuity of support
  • Face-to-face planning shifted to telephone meetings where possible and so on

Click this link to learn more


Contacting us during these times

I want to acknowledge that this is an incredibly stressful period for all of us. Particularly those in the disability and support worker communities. This is a time for us to come together and support one another.

Know that we are here to support you, but we also ask that if you do reach out to us please respect the efforts and experiences of the individuals you are in contact with. We don’t accept any abuse, abusive language, behaviour, threats, intimidation, racial abuse or derogatory remarks from either Partners and or their Support Workers/s.


Seeking support and guidance during these times

The wonderful humans at Lifeline are there to support us all through this pandemic so if you are feeling overwhelmed, having difficulty coping or are feeling unsafe their crisis support team can be contacted by phone or text 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Click this link to visit their website or call 13 11 14