COVID-19 (coronavirus) sector updates

The Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association (VAADA) is aware and monitoring the COVID-19 virus (coronavirus) spreading throughout Australia and globally.

We recognise the threat this virus poses to the AOD sector, particularly residential rehabilitation centres. The Department of Health and Human Services have created a resource to assist in reducing the risk of coronavirus.

You can view and download the resource here.

For more information and updates visit the DHHS website

 

Two recent reports reflecting the impact of COVID-19 on AOD services and service users have been developed and may be of interest.

The first is a Victorian-based pre budget submission provided to government by VAADA. It highlights the impact of COVID-19 on service delivery and contains a number of recommendations.

VAADA COVID-19 Pre Budget Submission

VAADA Infographic: COVID-19 Related Impacts for the Alcohol and Other Drugs Sector

The second is a report developed by the National AOD Peaks Network which reflects the findings from the AOD COVID survey administered nationally in June 2020.

Covid Impact Survey Summary Report

 

Procedure for correct fitting and removal of P.P.E (Personal Protective Equipment)

How to put on your P.P.E (donning)

How to take off your P.P.E (doffing)

Resources for the sector: Using Personal Protection Equipment (P.P.E) and infection control training

Infection control training

Overview of HeadtoHelp Clinics

Message from Dr. Ruth Vine – Commonwealth Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Mental Health

The HeadtoHelp clinics commenced operating on 14 September 2020 following the Prime Minister’s announcement on 17 August 2020. The clinics were rapidly established by the Victorian Primary Health Networks (PHNs), will operate for a period of 12 months and will contribute to a more connected mental health system, ensuring people get the help they need when they need it.

The HeadtoHelp clinics are a free service and are designed to provide high quality, evidence based treatment, information and support to people experiencing distress or mental ill health as a consequence of the impact of COVID-19. People can access the HeadtoHelp services by attending in-person at a clinic near them or by phoning 1800 595 212 to talk to a mental health professional about their needs.

I encourage you to contact the PHN Contacts to provide feedback on the clinics and to discuss how your organisation can support this important initiative. Also, if you have any feedback you would like to provide to the department or the Taskforce, you can provide it directly to my office at MentalHealthDepCMO@health.gov.au.

For the HeadtoHelp clinics to be successful in meeting demand, community members and health practitioners need to be aware of the services they provide. I would appreciate you sharing information on the clinics with your networks and have enclosed a Fact Sheet and FAQs to support you in these discussions.

2:00pm
16 September 2020

COVID-19 update for all service providers

Key messages:
• 15 new HeadtoHelp mental health hubs are now open across Victoria. Three of these hubs are in the North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN) region, in Broadmeadows, Wyndham Vale and Brunswick East.
• Victorians of all ages including GPs, other referrers and carers can call HeadtoHelp on 1800 595 212 from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday and a trained mental health professional will help find the best service or support for you or your client. Visit headtohelp.org.au for more information. Please note, this is not a crisis service.
• The Melbourne metropolitan region has entered the first step of eased restrictions, with changes to curfew hours, exercise rules and single person bubbles. More info here.
• The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) have published a fact sheet to support schools to share information about unwell students with their school community.
• The number of people getting tested remains a concern, with again under 9,000 tests processed on Tuesday. Please encourage your clients and staff to get tested, even if they have only the mildest symptoms.

Dear colleagues,
Infection numbers are now regularly below 40 per day, putting metropolitan Melbourne on track to move into Step 2 of the easing restrictions roadmap from 29 September. Testing is critical to keeping on top of new outbreaks. Support is available both while waiting for test results and to isolate following a positive test.

While progress is being made, significant restrictions are likely to remain for months to come. Three new HeadtoHelp mental health hubs have opened in our region, there to help connect people with the support they need during this difficult time.

Health work, including mental health, AOD and other care is considered an essential service under the new restrictions. However where it is not possible to work from home, you will need to provide a permit to staff to prove that they need to leave home to attend essential work.

Informing your community

It is critical that you update your websites, social media channels and phone answering service to reflect the current availability or otherwise of your services. Also:
• It is important to send relevant information about your services and opening hours to the National Health Services Directory, which will then update the government Health Direct app. You can either update your existing NHSD listing or create a new listing by visiting about.healthdirect.gov.au/contact-the-nhsd
• If you are have changed service delivery due to COVID-19, also send details to HealthPathways Melbourne by emailing info@healthpathwaysmelbourne.org.au for the information to be displayed on the “COVID-19 Impact on Local Services” page. This provides updated information to thousands of GPs and other health professionals across Melbourne to encourage appropriate referrals to be sent during this period.

Video series to help non-English speakers seek help during the pandemic

The Victorian Council of Social Service and ABC Melbourne are producing a series of Facebook Live events for multicultural communities. The first session is now available to watch on demand with captions in Hindi, Arabic, Simplified Chinese and English. It provides an easy to understand summary of critical public health advice and workers’ rights.
Watch the video here.

Managing COVID-19 clinical waste

With community services required to wear various types of personal protective equipment when working with clients, safe disposal of used PPE is a key issue. Advice on how to manage clinical waste from coronavirus (COVID-19), and arrange for collections in various workplace settings has now been released by DHHS.

Healthcare Worker Infection Prevention and Wellbeing Taskforce

  • The taskforce was set up to support healthcare workers and they meet weekly
  • The taskforce provides advice on strategies to lower the level of health care worker infections and improve their wellbeing – it has a particular focus on healthcare data analysis, infection control and safe workplaces, and worker wellbeing including mental health and reducing anxiety
  • It’s chaired by Andrew Wilson (Chief Medical Officer, SaferCare Victoria), the meetings themselves are chaired by Terry Symonds (Deputy Secretary, Health and Wellbeing)
  • Members represent the healthcare workforce and include infection control experts, unions, doctors, a nurse who has recovered from COVID-19, occupation health executives, and Human Resources experts
  • A weekly circular of taskforce activities is distributed after every meeting (see last weeks circular attached and you have been added to the distribution list Sam and can distribute these as you like – these updates will soon be published on the departments website)

For more information visit:

Help and Support for Healthcare Workers – Coronavirus (COVID-19)

DHHS Protecting our Heathcare Workers

List of updated COVID-19 resources (DHHS COVID-19 website)

The DHHS has provided a table outlining the resources available for the community services sector in relation to COVID-19. This table includes relevant links to the website sources.

Resources on DHHS COVID-19 site

Helping Victorians Connected and Supported: Mental Health and Wellbeing Coronavirus Response Package

Overview of Mental Health COVID Initiatives

The Victorian Government is funding a $59.4 million package of comprehensive measures to support the mental health, wellbeing and social connectedness of Victorians as we face the challenges of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic, and the psychological, social and economic impacts of physical distancing and isolation measures, will have a significant impact on the mental health and wellbeing of Victorians.

The Mental Health and Wellbeing Coronavirus Response Package will assist people living with a mental illness, their carers and families as well as people who are experiencing mental health problems for the first time due to measures that are protecting the health system from being overrun by the COVID-19.  The package provides extra support to as many Victorians as possible during the pandemic and as we position ourselves for recovery.

This document provides an overview of select initiatives funded in the response package.

Accommodation options for clients you may be working with during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Message on behalf of Denise Laughlin (Director, Community, Primary, Alcohol and Drugs – Commissioning)

Hello AOD providers,

I would like to make sure you are all aware of accommodation options and referral pathways for clients you may be working with during coronavirus (COVID-19):

• COVID-19 Isolation and Recovery Facilities (CIRFs) were established across inner Melbourne to provide temporary accommodation with support for people experiencing homelessness. To be eligible to access a CIRF a person must be experiencing homelessness and test positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), or are unwell and awaiting test results, or people that require an additional recovery period from the virus.

If you are working with a person experiencing homelessness who has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) follow advice from the Public Health team and if required – call the St Vincent’s nurse coordinator on 0437 059 267 to make a referral to a CIRF. If you are working with a person experiencing homelessness and needing to isolate while awaiting a coronavirus (COVID-19) test result – call the St Vincent’s nurse coordinator on 0437 059 267 to make a referral to a CIRF. Note – clients will not be eligible for the program if they require acute nursing or medical care (including management of clinically significant alcohol and other drug withdrawal or frequent monitoring of vital signs and other observations). These clients will be referred to appropriate health facilities for assessment and treatment, and St Vincent’s will assist with the referral. Referrals from outside metropolitan Melbourne are considered on a case by case basis.

• If you are working with a person experiencing homelessness but they do not meet CIRF eligibility criteria, they can be referred to a homelessness entry point who will conduct an assessment with the client and explore their vulnerabilities and resources and may be accommodated in emergency accommodation (hotel) if appropriate. Information about homelessness entry points is here: https://services.dhhs.vic.gov.au/getting-help

• If a person you are working with has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), or is awaiting test result, who is not experiencing homelessness but cannot isolate at home (due to risk to others) the Public Health team will undertake an assessment and if needed make a referral for emergency accommodation in a hotel for that person. The Public Health team can be contacted on the Communicable Diseases hotline – 1300 651 160 (this phone line operates 24/7 and provides advice about confirmed cases and close contacts).

For further information: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/housing-and-homelessness-coronavirus-covid-19 and please keep up to date with advice at: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus

Thank you again for the essential services you are providing vulnerable people during coronavirus (COVID-19).

FOCUS ON ‘CHILDCARE PERMIT’

The Victorian Government says only the children of permitted workers and ‘vulnerable children’ will be allowed to access childcare and kindergarten.

This includes permitted workers who are working from home but are unable to look after their kids.

More information on eligibility and the approvals process is now available online.

The two application forms you might need are the:

 

CLARITY ON PERMITTED WORK PREMISES

Overnight, the Victorian Government released a comprehensive list of permitted workplaces:

 

Q and A

We have created the below FAQs based on the most recent official advice:

I am working from home, am I still considered a permitted worker?
Yes, for the purposes of childcare and kinder, a permitted worker can also include someone working from home.

I am a single-parent household and don’t have anyone to watch my kids, can I access childcare?
Yes, you should apply for a childcare permit.

Both my partner and I are permitted workers, I am working from home and they are onsite, can we apply for a childcare permit?
Yes.

I am a permitted worker working from home, my child’s other guardian is furloughed and is at home all day – can I apply for a childcare permit?
No, you would not qualify for a childcare permit.

 

GOT MORE QUESTIONS?

If your question relates to family violence and sexual assault services, please use covid19response@familysafety.vic.gov.au

DETAILS OF VICTORIA’S NEW ‘PERMITTED WORKER SCHEME’ 

From midnight tonight workplaces in Melbourne must be closed unless:

  • the workplace is part of a permitted activity, or
  • all employees are working from home.

Approved employers that require their staff to attend work must issue them with a worker permit.

Click here to learn more, and to download a permit template.

All open businesses and services have until midnight on Friday night to enact a COVIDSafe plan (see guidance and template)

 

KEY QUESTIONS

  1. (Supplied by DHHS)1. Can community services continue to operate under stage 4 restrictions?
    Community services which are required to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of vulnerable people should continue to be provided.2. Does the curfew in metropolitan Melbourne apply to work?
    Yes for the general community but not if you provide community services which are required to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of vulnerable people, e.g. family violence support, child protection, AOD services, disability support services, family services, sexual assault services3. Can I travel beyond the 5km metropolitan Melbourne limit for work?
    Yes, you may travel outside the 5km radius for work, including to visit or support clients.

NOTE: People are able to travel further than 5km to access emergency relief services.

 

GOT QUESTIONS?

NEW RESTRICTIONS ANNOUNCED

Victoria has imposed wide-ranging new restrictions on travel, exercise, social engagement and shopping. A night curfew is also now in place across Melbourne. To learn more, we encourage you to read from official sources:

These new restrictions will apply until at least 13 September 2020

Additional restrictions relating to industries and workplaces will be announced today.

 

‘MUTUAL OBLIGATION’ SUSPENDED

The Federal Government is suspending so-called ‘mutual obligations requirements’ for Victorian job seekers “until further notice“.

This follows intense criticism last week, when the Commonwealth signalled it would reintroduce ‘mutual obligations’ at the same time as it was cutting the JobSeeker support payment to out of work Australians.

 

MENTAL HEALTH BOOST

The Commonwealth will provide Victorians with 10 extra Medicare-subsidised psychological therapy sessions to help support mental health through the second wave.

The change will apply to Victorians who have a Mental Health Treatment Plan, and will be available through until 31 March 2021.

Welcome to the latest VCOSS COVID-19 Sector Bulletin — our first in a few weeks.

WORKER SUPPORT PAYMENT   

More financial help has been announced so people aren’t out of pocket when they self-isolate to wait for the results of a COVID test.

An instant $300 payment is now on offer for casual workers, contract workers and workers who have run out of sick leave, and are waiting for test results.

This is in addition to the existing $1,500 financial hardship payment on offer to eligible workers who test positive and need to isolate for multiple weeks.

The Victorian Government requests assistance publicising the new $300 payment, so people know this support is now available.

FACE COVERINGS

Masks or face coverings are now compulsory for all Melbourne residents when they leave their home, although some common sense exemptions do apply.

The Victorian Government has placed substantial orders for reusable cloth masks to be distributed to low-income and vulnerable Victorians, and for use by community organisations.

DHHS can help you access masks and other PPE.

COVID FORUM IN TWO WEEKS

The next VCOSS-DHHS COVID-19 Digital Forum will take place at 1pm on Thursday August 6th, just as residents of Melbourne and Mitchell Shire are (hopefully) nearing the end of the second lockdown.

This session will canvas the next steps in the community fight against COVID-19, including:

  • Current public health advice,
  • Service delivery in a ‘COVID normal’ environment, and
  • Issues the pandemic is raising for the treatment of people facing poverty and disadvantage.

This is a free event.

NOTE: Advice on masks, testing, support payments and all other matters is available in more than 50 languages on the DHHS website.

cohealth are coordinating AOD supports and services on the ground.  They are supporting and encouraging residents to maintain their existing treatment relationships with their AOD provider.  We know that AOD services are actively contacting their clients who are tenants of the Flemington and North Melbourne housing estates.  It is important that clients stay connected with their existing service providers.

cohealth are also supporting the delivery of new onsite services such as counselling, NSP, nicotine replacement therapy, as well pharmacotherapy services (see links).

Public Housing Response – Opioid Pharmacotherapy 

COVID19 Public Housing Tower AOD Services Flow Chart

AOD service pathways – lockdown – towers – July 2020

Welcome to the latest VCOSS COVID-19 Sector Bulletin, comprising high-level advice and resources from reputable sources, relevant to the Victorian community sector.

Suitable content will also be posted to the VCOSS COVID-19 page.

You can update your email preferences at any time.

Please note: VCOSS does not provide direct health, legal or financial advice. The best place to access up-to-date health advice remains dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus

MORE RESTRICTIONS EASING

Over the weekend, the Victorian Government announced further changes that ease restrictions on travel, recreation and social engagement. This is how things now stand:

FROM TOMORROW

  • Schools gradually resume classroom learning.

FROM JUNE 1

  • You’ll be able to have a total of 20 people in your home.
  • Overnight stays can resume at private residences.
  • 20 people allowed at weddings and up to 50 people allowed at a funeral.
  • Libraries, youth centres and other community facilities will be able to open with no more than 20 people in a single area, plus those needed to operate the space.
  • Swimming pools will also open with limits of 20 people and additional safety requirements in place.
  • Other community sporting activities will also be permitted with up to 20 people in undivided spaces, provided the sport is outdoors, non-competition, non-contact, and people are able to play 1.5 metres apart.
  • Other changes related to sport and recreation, personal services, cafes and restaurants.

FROM JUNE 22

  • Indoor fitness and recreation facilities will open with up to 20 people per space, and up to 10 people per group or activity at any one time.
  • Up to 50 people will be allowed in restaurants, cafes, galleries, museums and cinemas.

The Premier, Daniel Andrews, says if community transmission rates continue to remain low and testing rates continue to remain high, Victoria “will look to further relax restrictions from 22 June”.

For full details visit dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus

NEW COMMUNITY SERVICES DIGITAL FORUM

VCOSS and the Department of Health and Human Services are now running monthly digital forums about the ongoing community sector response to COVID-19, on the first Thursday of each month.

The next forum will be 1pm on Thursday June 4th.

We are asking you to register and submit your questions by COB Monday June 1st to ensure all questions are answered, and none are missed.

Speakers are TBC, but will include representatives of VCOSS, DHHS and other government departments, and public health officials.

It is important you register so we can track attendance and distribute materials, as required.

Book your ticket here

VICTORIAN ANNOUNCEMENTS

The Victorian Government has announced some easing of the lockdown rules, including allowing Victorians to have up to five visitors (family and/or friends) at their homes.

New rapid response teams will be established to prevent, respond to and limit outbreaks.

The Victorian Government is still undertaking a testing blitz to track how the virus is spreading in the community. Anyone with even the mildest of symptoms – such as a runny nose or scratchy throat – is encouraged to get tested.

For details about today’s announcements see the DHHS website, where a list of frequently asked questions will be updated.

EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT VIRTUAL FORUMS
VCOSS and the Municipal Association of Victoria will continue our nine-year partnership by bringing our annual emergency management forum online. The forum scheduled for June will be replaced by a series on virtual forums showcasing collaboration between the community services sector and local government. The first forum will be held in late May/early June.

We are seeking case studies of local initiatives covering themes including emergency relief, homelessness, youth and mental health.

Please contact Bridget Tehan to express interest in sharing your initiatives.

UPDATED PLAN FOR THE SECTOR
The COVID-19 plan for Victorian Community Services Sector has been updated. Changes to the plan include clarification of the difference between pandemic response stages and physical distancing stages, AND a new DHHS community sector issue resolution process. For more information visit this website.

HOTELS FOR HEROES
The Victorian Government is offering emergency accommodation to more frontline workers if they need to self-isolate during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hotels for Heroes program will now be available to staff working in:

  • supported accommodation services for people with a disability
  • public sector residential aged care
  • Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Organisations
  • community-based pharmacy
  • hospital laboratories
  • workers in primary care settings
  • Victoria Police
  • Youth Justice
  • Corrections Victoria
  • Metropolitan Fire Brigade and Country Fire Authority firefighters involved in Emergency Medical Response.

Get more information here, click on the ‘Advice for frontline workers’ section.

RENTERS’ GUIDANCE  
New Victorian laws temporarily change how the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 operates in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These laws apply for six months from 29 March 2020. Tenants Victoria’s guide to the the laws can be accessed here.

SNAPSHOTS OF THE SECTOR RESPONSE 
The Australian Alliance for Social Enterprise (TAASE) at the University of South Australia is working with Australian community service organisations across the country to identify current demands and pressure points as they respond to the impact of COVID-19. Early findings from the first two surveys are available on the project website. TAASE is calling for participants to take the third and final fortnightly survey, which closes at midnight TONIGHT, Monday 11 May. Find the survey here.

PANDEMIC IMPACT ON THE YOUTH SECTOR
Youth Affairs Council Victoria has completed an initial analysis of two surveys about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for young people and the youth sector in Victoria. Visit yacvic.org.au for results and more information

REMINDER: ENROL FOR JOBKEEPER PAYMENTS BY 31 MAY 
The Commissioner has extended the time to enrol for the initial JobKeeper periods from 30 April 2020 until 31 May 2020. If you enrol by 31 May, you will still be able to claim for the fortnights in April 2020 and May 2020, provided you meet all the eligibility requirements for each of those fortnights. This includes having paid your employees by the appropriate date for each fortnight.

Watch VCOSS’ second Digital Forum about ongoing sector response to COVID-19, hosted with DHHS on April 29th

Welcome to the latest VCOSS COVID-19 Sector Bulletin, comprising high-level advice and resources from reputable sources, relevant to the Victorian community sector.

Suitable content will also be posted to the VCOSS COVID-19 page.

You can update your email preferences at any time.

Please note: VCOSS does not provide direct health, legal or financial advice. The best place to access up-to-date health advice remains dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus

REGISTER NOW 

VCOSS and the Department of Health and Human Services are running a second information forum about the ongoing sector response to COVID-19.

This digital-only forum will be held at 12:30pm on Wednesday 29 April (this week).

Speakers include:

  • Agiri Alisandratos. DHHS Deputy Secretary, Children, Families, Communities and Disability
  • A representative of the Victorian Chief Health Officer.
  • Andrea Spitiri. DHHS Director, Emergency Management.
  • Emma King. CEO, Victorian Council of Social Service.

You will be able to submit questions before and during the event.

SECURE YOUR SPOT

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT
SIGNIFICANT JOBKEEPER CHANGE

On Friday, the Commonwealth made some significant changes to the JobKeeper payment scheme that will make a big difference to our sector.

NFP and charity sector organisations now have the option to exclude government revenue from the JobKeeper ‘turnover test’. This will allow charities receiving revenue from government to use either their total turnover, or their turnover excluding government revenue, for the purposes of accessing eligibility for the JobKeeper payment.

We expand on these changes in some detail below. 

We encourage you to read this detailed information and contact your qualified accountant or BAS agent to discuss your options.

JOBKEEPER PAYMENTS AND NFPs
If your revenue is affected by the coronavirus, you may be eligible to access the JobKeeper payment to assist you to be able to continue paying your employees. Not-for-profit entities (including charities) that meet the turnover tests are eligible to enrol for the JobKeeper payment.

An ACNC-registered charity, other than a university and school, only needs to show a decline in turnover of 15% or more. Those who are not registered charities will need to show a decline of 30% or more.
Employers are eligible for the JobKeeper payment if all of the following apply:

  • On 1 March 2020, you were a not-for-profit or registered charity organisation that pursued your objectives principally in Australia.
  • You employed at least one eligible employee on 1 March 2020.
  • Your eligible employees are currently employed by your organisation for the fortnights you claim for (including those who are stood down or re-hired).
  • Your Not-for-profit has faced a 30% fall in turnover or your registered charity has faced a 15% fall in turnover (for ACNC-registered charities other than universities and schools).

Changes announced Friday 24 April 2020 by the Federal Government will allow eligible ACNC registered charities (other than schools and universities) to elect to exclude government revenue from the JobKeeper turnover test. This will allow employing charities receiving revenue from government to use either their total turnover, or their turnover excluding government revenue, for the purposes of assessing eligibility for the JobKeeper Payment. This will help to ensure that the eligibility of charities is not adversely affected where they are delivering significant services that are funded by government.

MORE TIME TO ENROL
Please note the Commissioner has extended the time to enrol for the initial JobKeeper periods from 30 April 2020 until 31 May 2020. If you enrol by 31 May, you will still be able to claim for the fortnights in April 2020 and May 2020, provided you meet all the eligibility requirements for each of those fortnights. This includes having paid your employees by the appropriate date for each fortnight.

For the first two fortnights (30 March – 12 April, 13 April – 26 April), the ATO will accept the minimum $1,500 payment for each fortnight has been paid by you even if it has been paid late, provided it is paid by you by the end of April. You can enrol and claim for JobKeeper earlier if you choose. For example, you can enrol by the end of April to claim JobKeeper payments for the two fortnights in April.

Your eligible employees Employers can choose to participate in the scheme and then nominate all the employees they are entitled to claim for. An employer can choose not to participate in the JobKeeper payment. Your employee is eligible under the JobKeeper Payment scheme if they:

  • Are employed by you (including those stood down or re-hired),
  • Were either a permanent full-time or part-time employee at 1 March 2020,
  • Long-term casual employee (employed on a regular and systematic basis for at least 12 months) as at 1 March 2020 and not a permanent employee of any other employer,
  • Were at least 16 years of age on 1 March 2020,
  • Were an Australian resident as at 1 March 2020 within the meaning of the Social Security Act 1991, which requires that they reside in Australia, and are one of an Australian citizen, the holder of a permanent visa, or a Protected Special Category Visa Holder. Your employee can also be an Australian tax resident who is a Special Category (Subclass 444) Visa Holder. Employees who are not permanent residents of Australia must notify you of their visa status to allow you to determine if they are eligible,
  • Were not in receipt of any of these payments during the JobKeeper fortnight,
    • Government parental leave or Dad and partner pay,
    • A payment in accordance with Australian worker compensation law for an individual’s total incapacity for work,
  • Agree to be nominated by you (see Nominating employees).
  • You cannot claim for any employees who either:
    • Were first employed by you after 1 March 2020,
    • Left your employment before 1 March 2020,
    • Have been, or have agreed to be, nominated by another employer.

    If your employees have multiple employers, they can usually choose which employer they want to nominate through. However, if your employees are long-term casuals and have other permanent employment, they must choose the permanent employer and cannot nominate you. They cannot be nominated for the JobKeeper payment by more than one employer.Please note that the ‘one in, all in’ rule applies – an employer receiving the JobKeeper payment must offer it to all eligible employees.

    Please discuss your eligibility criteria with your accountant or BAS agent, VCOSS cannot advise you if you are eligible and should apply. You must determine how the rules apply to your organisation.

    If you are advised that you can apply by your accountant or BAS agent (who has established that your not-for-profit organisation meets the eligibility requirements, including the turnover test) you can follow these easy steps:

    • Register your interest for the JobKeeper payment on the ATO website.
    • Notify your eligible employees that you intend to participate in the scheme and ask them if they agree to be nominated and receive payments from you as part of the scheme. This may confuse some of your employees and they may want to ask questions. WACOSS recommends you hold a team meeting or write a clear communication. For example, explain the award conditions still apply, the organisation can apply for all employees.
    • Employees will have to download and fill the JobKeeper Employee Nomination Form and return it to you. Both you and the nominated employee need to complete the form. You do not need to send this notice to ATO, however you should keep a record to document that your employee has agreed that you claim the JobKeeper Payment for them. You have to pay your employees first before claiming JobKeeper (it is a retrospective payment).
    • Once you have all the JobKeeper Employee nomination notices you can register for JobKeeper. If you use the Business Portal, you will need a myGovID linked to your ABN in relationship Authorisation Manager (RAM). You can find out how to set this up at ato.gov.au/mygovid
    • You or your registered tax or BAS agent can enrol for the JobKeeper payment.
    • Log in to the Business Portal using myGovID.
    • Select ‘Manage employees’ then the link for the JobKeeper payment.
    • Fill in the JobKeeper enrolment form and provide your:
      • Eligibility information (which month has your business turnover declined),
      • Expected number of eligible employees (how many employees are you claiming for, you only need to provide the number),
      • Contact and bank details.
    • Notify all your eligible employees you have nominated them.
    • To ensure you receive your JobKeeper payments as early possible, you should enrol by the end of April. However, enrolments are open till the end of May if you need more time. Your organisation may want to consider registering on the ATO whilst investigating your eligibility and collecting all the required forms from their employees. Please discuss your approach and eligibility criteria with your accountant or BAS agent.
    • MONTHLY BUSINESS DECLARATIONS
      • Each month, you must reconfirm your reported eligible employees. This can be done through the Business Portal or via your registered tax or BAS agent.
      • If your eligible employees change or leave your employment, you will need to notify us through the business monthly declaration report.
      • You must also provide information as to your current and projected GST turnover. This is not a retest of your eligibility, but rather an indication of how your business is progressing under the JobKeeper Payment scheme.

      KEY DATES

      • From Monday 20 April: enrol for JobKeeper payment.
      • By Thursday 30 April: pay your employees $1,500 for each fortnight to claim JobKeeper payments for April.
      • Monday 4 May onwards: identify your employees.
      • Sunday 31 May: final date to enrol to claim for JobKeeper fortnights in April and May
      • Each month: reconfirm eligibility.

      A big thank you to our colleagues

      at WACOSS for helping to compile 
      the above information.

BUILDING THE RECOVERY
The Victorian Government has established a new taskforce to identify construction opportunities that assist the local economy during and after the pandemic. The Taskforce’s terms of reference include “advising on initiatives that further expand social housing options”. VCOSS welcomes this inclusion, and is urging Taskforce members to make social housing a top priority.

APP RELEASED
Australians can now download the Federal Government’s contact tracing app COVIDSafe. We have some concerns about this app, but also acknowledge the key role it could play in eliminating COVID-19 from the community. You can read our Issues Alert Smartphone tracing is happening. So let’s do it right.

VCOSS WORK ARRANGEMENTS
Please be aware all VCOSS staff are working remotely at present. If you wish to contact a staff member directly you can find their email address here. For general inquiries please email vcoss@vcoss.org.au or call (03) 9235 1000.

Welcome to the latest VCOSS COVID-19 Sector Bulletin, comprising high-level advice and resources from reputable sources, relevant to the Victorian community sector.

Suitable content will also be posted to the VCOSS COVID-19 page.

You can update your email preferences at any time.

Note: VCOSS does not provide health or legal advice. The best place to access up-to-date health advice remains dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus

FEDERAL INQUIRY
The Senate has established a cross-party committee to scrutinise Australia’s response to COVID-19. The Committee has begun accepting submissions on any matter relating to this broad topic. Read more.

MINISTERS MESSAGE
The Minister for Child Protection, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Luke Donnellan, has recorded a message of thanks for “all the marvellous workers and carers” on the frontline of the community sector response to COVID-19.

DISABILITY PLAN
The Federal Health Department has released a formal Management and Operational Plan for People with Disability during COVID-19. The plan  provides high-level guidance on a range of factors that need to be considered in managing and preventing the transmission of COVID-19 for people with disability.

https://twitter.com/LukeDonnellan/status/1252060006586834944

MEANTIME…
The Disability Royal Commission is seeking information about the experiences of people with disability during COVID-19 and the recent summer bushfires. It’s released an Emergency Planning and Response Issues Paper questioning how to improve the safety and wellbeing of people with disability during similar emergencies in the future. It also asks what should be done to ensure people with disability are not at risk of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation during emergencies.

COVID-19 Issues Alerts

VCOSS has now released five Issues Alerts, designed to help inform public discussion and guide government action on policy issues relating to the Coronavirus crisis:

  1. Confronting family violence during lockdown. April 16th
  2. Energy hardship with everybody at home. April 15th
  3. Household lockdown for diverse households. April 13th
  4. Six things to think about as we (rightly) ban evictions March 31st
  5. Eight things to consider as we shut schools.  March 22nd

WORK SCHEME PROGRESS
Community sector organisations can now register for the Victorian Government’s Working for Victoria job creation program. This scheme helps workers who have lost jobs as a consequence of COVID-19, and other Victorians seeking work, to find new opportunities in critical roles supporting the community.  The government will pay each worker’s salary plus on-costs for six months. Some large organisations have already been directly invited to submit proposals, but others can do so at any time.

 

VCOSS ASSISTANCE 
We can help community organisations identify and design job opportunities. VCOSS will also work with community sector peaks to identify cross-sector opportunities. Contact Deb and Jarrod for guidance or advice.

PRESSURE ASSESSMENT
The Australian Alliance for Social Enterprise (TAASE) at the University of South Australia is mapping current demands and ‘pressure points’ facing the community sector as we respond to the spread of COVID-19. The data gathered will be used for rapid advocacy. Access the survey.

PICTURE PERFECT
The open source online graphics website Canva has released a series of free COVID-19 related images and design templates for organisations. Learn more.

VCOSS WORK ARRANGEMENTS
Please be aware all VCOSS staff are working remotely at present. If you wish to contact a staff member directly you can find their email address here. For general inquiries please email vcoss@vcoss.org.au or call (03) 9235 1000.

Welcome to the latest VCOSS COVID-19 Sector Bulletin, comprising high-level advice and resources from reputable sources, relevant to the Victorian community sector.

Past content is available on the VCOSS COVID-19 page. Please note, VCOSS does not provide health or legal advice. The best place to access up-to-date health advice here.

VICTORIAN ANNOUNCEMENTS

The Easter long weekend has brought a flurry of announcements from the Victorian Government on the social measures required to cushion the impact of COVID-19. Here are the headline details:

Mental Health
$60 million to support mental health services respond to a spike in demand due to the unfolding Coronavirus crisis. Key components include bolstering frontline services, expanding online and phone counselling services and helping vulnerable people overcome social isolation. More information here.

Homelessness
$8.8 million for new temporary facilities that provide health care and accommodation for rough sleepers over the next six months. The Victorian Government is also vowing not to include new Commonwealth welfare payments in rent assessments over the coming months. More information here.

Family violence
Victoria will spend $20 million on short-term accommodation for people experiencing (or at risk of) family violence, who aren’t safe at home. An additional $20 million will be spent to help family violence organisations deal with increased demand during the pandemic. More information here

VCOSS COMMENT
These measures are extremely welcome. One key piece of unfinished business is Victoria’s impending rental fairness package. The Federal Government has previously announced a residential evictions ban. However, the state and territory governments are responsible for developing the complex policies that sit under this headline ban, including payment waivers or deferrals, and other protections. NSW unveiled its rental protections package over the weekend, and we expect Victoria to follow shortly. 

POWERS OVERSIGHT

Police
With police being asked to enforce Victoria’s tough Stage 3 social distancing regime, there’s growing debate about what oversight is required to ensure these powers are used fairly and proportionately. The Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre and Liberty Victoria have now launched covidpolicing.org.au to collect reports of inappropriate or concerning police interactions during the Coronavirus crisis.

Government
Victorian Parliament crossbenchers have united to urge greater oversight of the State Government’s response to COVID-19, too. Nine of the 11 crossbench MPs are asking for a new, or existing, multi-party committee to be tasked with keeping check on the actions of the government. More information here

SURVEYS

Young people
COVID-19 presents new and unique challenges for young people. The situation is changing fast and YACVic wants to make sure young people are properly considered in government responses. If you’re a young person you can help by filing out this survey. Youth organisations can have their say here.

Disability and PPE
The Summer Foundation wants to better understand the extent to which people with disability and their support workers need protective gowns, gloves and masks to protect them from COVID-19. You can complete the online survey here.

Remember, you can now request PPE from DHHS through a central email address. However please note, if there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 within your facility, program or service you should expect delays in receiving your PPE due to the increase in demand.

Welcome to the latest VCOSS COVID-19 Sector Bulletin, comprising high-level advice and resources from reputable sources, relevant to the Victorian community sector.

This is a very brief update to yesterday’s Bulletin.

Please note: VCOSS does not provide health or legal advice. The best place to access up-to-date health advice remains dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus

NEW CARE RESTRICTIONS
Yesterday, we communicated new restrictions on visitors and workers in residential care facilities. The Department of Health and Human Services has since provided more detail, with extensive FAQs now available online. You can also still access the formal legal Direction.

PERFORMANCE MONITORING AND FUNDING
DHHS has also released updated guidance on performance monitoring and service delivery during the Coronavirus crisis. The Department is promising a flexible and reasonable approach to these issues, and vowing that “no funding or service agreements will be ceased during this time”. Read the Fact Sheet.

LONG WEEKEND
If you’re lucky enough to get a long weekend over the coming days please enjoy it and stay safe

VCOSS WORK ARRANGEMENTS
All VCOSS staff are working remotely at present. If you wish to contact a staff member directly you can find their email address here. For general inquiries please email vcoss@vcoss.org.au or call (03) 9235 1000.

Welcome to the latest VCOSS COVID-19 Sector Bulletin, comprising high-level advice and resources from reputable sources, relevant to the Victorian community sector.

All content from past updates is available on the VCOSS COVID-19 page.

You can update your email preferences at any time.

Please note: VCOSS does not provide health or legal advice. The best place to access up-to-date health advice remains dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus

TOUGHER CARE RESTRICTIONS
Victoria has announced new restrictions on workers, carers and visitors within “facilities where vulnerable Victorians live and receive care”. These include:

  • Drug and alcohol residential services
  • Homelessness services
  • Aged care residential services
  • Disability residential services
  • Specialist Disability Accommodation
  • Supported residential services

You can read the full order here.

NFP SUPPORT CLARIFIED
The Federal Treasury has formally updated its guidance advice on JobKeeper payments and NFPs registered with the ACNC. Charities will now be be eligible for the subsidy if they estimate their turnover has fallen, or will likely fall, by 15 per cent or more relative to a comparable period. Read more here.

SCHOOL’S BACK
Most Victorian school children will learn from home in Term 2, with Premier Daniel Andrews telling students “if you can study from home, you must study from home”. The government has unveiled a broad package to facilitate remote learning and support children without internet access or who might have other vulnerabilities, picking up on many of the topics we raised in our COVID-19 Issues Alert.

RENTAL WAIT
The Victorian Government is still working on the details of package designed to keep tenants safe in their homes during the Coronavirus crisis. While the Federal Government has announced a national ban on rental evictions and details for supporting commercial tenants, much of the detail and implementation with regard to residential tenancies has fallen to the states and territories.

HUMAN RIGHTS FIGHT
Victoria’s Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner, Kristen Hilton, has warned of the importance of protecting human rights during the Coronavirus crisis. “It’s vital that we hang onto humanity in the face of extraordinary challenges and consider the longer term consequences of actions and decisions that we make now,” she writes in a new article.

MORE LANGUAGE GUIDES
The Federal Health Department has created a number of translated COVID-19 Fact Sheets in languages. These are on:

  • close contact with confirmed cases
  • community return
  • FAQ’s
  • identifying symptoms
  • isolation guidance
  • residential care services
  • early childhood centres
  • social distancing

RESPECTFUL RESPONSES
WithRespect has developed a new ‘COVID-19 and Family Violence for LGBTIQ+ people’ resources page which includes information on access to key services and supports, resources and tips on safety planning. WithRespect is the Statewide family violence and intimate partner violence service supporting LGBTIQ+ communities and their families

MORE ONLINE

The VCOSS COVID-19 Sector Bulletins contain the very latest information.

But they are not designed to be exhaustive.

All relevant items from past updates are available on the VCOSS COVID-19 page.

 

VCOSS WORK ARRANGEMENTS
Please be aware all VCOSS staff are working remotely at present. If you wish to contact a staff member directly you can find their email address here. For general inquiries please email vcoss@vcoss.org.au or call (03) 9235 1000

Click on the links below for advice and clinical guidance related to working in the Medically Assisted Treatment for Opioid Dependence (MATOD) sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Advice moderates existing MATOD policy for prescribers and dispensers in relation to:

  • Takeaway doses
  • Third party collection
  • Suboxone prescribing caps.

This information is intended to provide guidance and support for increased flexibility in clinical treatment during this time.  This advice was developed by alcohol and other drug experts and the Department of Health and Human Services, and will be supported by ongoing work by the department to identify optimal pathways for vulnerable clients, including pharmacotherapy patients.

Please see the Victorian COVID-19 website for current case definition, guidance and testing recommendations.

If you have any questions in relation to this information, please make contact with your local Pharmacotherapy Area Based Network in the first instance. Alternatively you may submit questions to aod.enquiries@dhhs.vic.gov.au.

Take Away Dose Guidance

Third Party Arrangements

AOD COVID19 MATOD – 2 April 2020

Welcome to the latest VCOSS COVID-19 Sector Bulletin, comprising high-level advice and resources from reputable sources, relevant to the Victorian community sector.

Suitable content will also be posted to the VCOSS COVID-19 page.

You can update your email preferences at any time.

Note: VCOSS does not provide health or legal advice. The best place to access up-to-date health advice remains dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus

PLAN RELEASED

The Victorian Government has formally released a COVID-19 Plan for the Victorian Community Services Sector. This document is designed to enable the ongoing provision of vital services to vulnerable and disadvantaged Victorians. Sub-sector plans (for child and family services, housing and homelessness, maternal child health and others) can be be found here. Please note these plans may change in response to new initiatives and announcements.

PPE REQUESTS

DHHS has established a streamlined process to manage the distribution of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for members of the community sector. Demand for PPE is very high at the moment, and the government is urging community organisations to source PPE independently before making a request. DHHS has also developed guidelines and a risk assessment checklist for workers in how to use PPE properly for face-to-face interactions with clients.

EVICTIONS BAN
With the virus spreading and the economy slowing, National Cabinet has announced a six month moratorium on residential and commercial evictions. State and territory governments are now moving quickly to give effect to this plan, which also includes some brokerage funding for homelessness service system, which people can use to pay housing costs.

VCOSS COMMENT
The rules, regulations and legislation required to effectively implement an eviction ban are currently being developed at top speed. This is the correct approach. But it also means the risk of unintended consequences is real. We must get the detail right. VCOSS has developed a COVID-19 ISSUES ALERT on:  Six things to think about as we (rightly) ban evictions.

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
At the VCOSS/DHHS information session on 13 March, many of you had questions regarding COVID-19 and its impact on service delivery and funding. DHHS has sought to answer all your questions in a new FAQ document.

NEW WAYS TO STAY INFORMED
The Australian Government has released an official app with the information you need to know about coronavirus. Search “Coronavirus Australia” in the Apple App Store and on Google Play. You can also access the Australian Government’s WhatsApp feature for the latest information. See how here.

JOBKEEPER PAYMENT
The Government has announced a $130 billion JobKeeper payment to help keep more Australians in jobs and support businesses affected by the significant economic impact caused by the Coronavirus.

A new fact sheet (PDF) has been released by the government discussing the new JobKeeper payment, including eligibility requirements.

COVID-19 WEBINARS

Coronavirus economic update for non-government schools and the NFP sector
Wednesday 1 April, 10.00am VERY SOON
Presented by Our CommunityLaw
In this special edition webcast for non-government schools and the not-for-profit sector, CommBank’s economists will share their views on the economy, policy and markets impacted by the Covid-19. The discussion will be followed by Q&A. Register to watch live or receive a recording
Contract issues for community organisations
Friday 3 April, 10.30am
Presented by Justice Connect Not-for-Profit Law
This free webinar will help your organisation understand key concepts of contract law, with a focus on COVID-19. You’ll learn tools to navigate common contractual issues – whether you’re cancelling an event, renegotiating with a funder, putting a project on hold, or changing how you purchase or deliver goods and services. Register to watch live or receive a recording

Early childhood education and care providers and services
On 26 March the Department of Education, Skills and Employment held an Information Session for early childhood education and care providers and services during COVID-19.
Watch the recording online (includes captions)

FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

COVID-19 business grants
City of Melbourne is offering $5 million in grants for small to medium sized businesses and non-profit organisations to invest in online and e-commerce capabilities, take part in training and professional development, and undertake capital works.
Learn more and apply

Cash flow assistance for NFPs
The Australian Government is providing up to $100,000 to eligible businesses and NFPs that employ people to assist with cash flow. Employers will receive a payment equal to 100 per cent of their salary and wages withheld, with a minimum payment of $10,000 and maximum of $50,000. Learn more here.

Grants for artists and arts organisations affected by COVID-19
City of Melbourne is offering 500 grants worth up to $4000 for individual artists or small organisations. Learn more and apply.

National funding platform established
Philanthropy Australia have partnered with the Australian Communities Foundation to provide a free online COVID-19 granting platform for Australia. This online platform will allow charities to register their funding needs and enable philanthropic funders to understand the granting opportunities available to respond to the critical needs of the sector during COVID-19.

This information provides guidance to Alcohol and Drug (AoD) services to support the continued delivery of essential frontline services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic via safe and alternative means that support the most vulnerable members of the community. It is essential that consumers continue to receive ongoing services where possible throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Failure to provide critical and essential services to vulnerable clients may result in:
• Deterioration of existing health conditions
• Increased demand on scarce hospital resources
• Increased social isolation for already highly vulnerable consumers.

Read More: AOD – COVID19 – 26 March 2020

Welcome to the latest VCOSS COVID-19 Sector Bulletin, comprising high-level advice and resources from reputable sources, relevant to the Victorian community sector.

Suitable content will also be posted to the VCOSS COVID-19 page.

You can update your email preferences at any time.

Note: VCOSS does not provide health or legal advice. The best place to access up-to-date health advice remains dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus

TOLL RISING
Victoria has recorded its first three deaths related to coronavirus.

TOUGHER RESTRICTIONS
Stage 2 measures to contain the spread of Coronavirus are now in effect across Victoria. You should stay at home and avoid all gatherings. This reduces the chances of transmission, protects the health system and saves lives. If you’re unsure, then stay home. If you are with other people, you must observe the rule of one person for every for square metres. See all the restrictions.

Will there be further restrictions?

Yes.  Premier Andrews has clearly stated we will shift to Stage 3, at some point.

SUB-SECTOR MEETINGS
COVID-19 and the Victorian disability sector
Friday March 27, 2020. 9:30am – 10:30am.
VERY SOON.

This is a free seminar convened by National Disability Services (NDS) and the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). It is being run via Zoom. Details and registration here.

ROYAL INTERVENTION
Australia’s Disability Royal Commission is itself urging governments to ensure all responses to COVID-19 include dedicated strategies, and take all necessary measures, to protect and support people with disability. You can access the Commission’s Statement of Concern here.

VCOSS COMMENT ON EVICTIONS
Victorian is being urged to adopt measures allowing renters to stay in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nobody can self-isolate or social distance without a home. The health, social and economic consequences of Victorians— including people who have just lost their jobs—being evicted and driven into homelessness, or forced to look for a new rental property, would be extreme. No unreasonable evictions and quick, accessible and sufficient subsidies for rental payments must be key principles going forward.

WORK PLAN
There are a lot of people out of work, and a lot of critical services crying out for help. Where possible, the Victorian Government will match people who need work with jobs that need doing. VCOSS and Trades Hall are helping design ‘Working for Victoria‘ scheme.

For now, organisations are encouraged to help raise awareness of the program by sharing details from Premier Andrews (Facebook) or VCOSS (Twitter | Facebook).

Individuals out of work can register their interest today.

KEEPING CONNECTED
The Consumer Action Law Center is lobbying companies that deliver essential services to make sure people aren’t disconnected during the Coronavirus health crisis (#KeepConnected). They’re keeping an up-to-date list of companies’ responses here.

WORK RIGHTS
Job Watch has released a Q&A on employment rights in relation to COVID-19. They includes answers to frequently asked questions like ‘Can my employer direct me to work from home or change my hours because of the Coronavirus?’ and ‘Can my employer direct me to use my paid leave entitlements?’ Read it here.

KID SUPPORT
Coronavirus is hard to explain to little ones. They can be confused, overwhelmed and anxious. Emerging Minds has created a curated selection of resources to assist parents and carers to have these conversations.

SUPPORT GROUP
The team behind Our Community has started an online peer support group on Facebook for people working in Australian not-for-profits. You’re encouraged to ask questions of each other, share important information, and provide and receive guidance during this difficult time. Join here.

VCOSS WORK ARRANGEMENTS

Please be aware all VCOSS staff are working remotely at present. If you wish to contact a staff member directly you can find their email address here. For general inquiries please email vcoss@vcoss.org.au or call (03) 9235 1000.

 

Welcome to the latest VCOSS COVID-19 Sector Update.

We will send an email similar to this—comprising the latest high-level advice and resources relevant to the Victorian community sector—at least weekly, until the pandemic subsides.

All suitable content from these Sector Updates will also be posted to the VCOSS COVID-19 page.

The best place to access up-to-date health advice remains dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus

ACTIVITY BAN
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced Stage 1 of a shutdown of non-essential activities across the state from midday today. The businesses that will close due to the Stage 1 shutdown include pubs, clubs, nightclubs, Crown Casino, and licensed venues in hotels and pubs.

The autumn school holidays will also be brought forward, essentially shutting public schools from tomorrow. The government has acknowledged that there will be some confusion about these restrictions, and further details will be communicated over the coming days.

  • VCOSS COMMENT
    We believe the community sector must be exempt from any shutdown. The UK has done this. People working in child protection, disability support, family violence, homelessness, community health, residential care and dozens of other areas must be allowed to keep working. Crucially, this will take the pressure off mainstream health services so they can do their job combating the virus. Only by permitting all community service workers to keep helping people over the months ahead will we all get through these trying times. 

 

CARE PACKS
Victorians in mandatory self-isolation running short on food and unable to have any dropped-off by friends are now eligible for a “food and personal care package”, with a two-weeks supply of items like long-life milk, pasta, canned fruit, cereal and sugar, as well as some personal care items. People wishing to request a pack should call Victoria’s dedicated Coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398

JOB MATCHING
VCOSS and the Victorian Trades Hall Council will be working with the Victorian Government to develop a scheme that matches people out of work with jobs that need doing during the pandemic. That might be hospitality workers helping feed people in isolation, or it could be factory workers helping clean trains and trams. The Victorian Government has announced $500 million to establish this Working for Victoria Fund.

FAQ — Is my service an essential service?

At this stage, businesses that will close due to the Stage 1 shutdown include pubs, clubs, nightclubs, Crown Casino, and licensed venues in hotels and pubs. It also includes gyms, indoor sporting venues, places of worship, cinemas and entertainment venues. Restaurants and cafes will only be allowed to provide home delivery or takeaway services.

Further closures may be announced in future, for other non-essential activities. The full list of essential services is not yet available. We are working closely with the Victorian Government to make sure community organisations are recognized as essential services and can continue to keep delivering services to vulnerable communities. 

VCOSS will circulate further information when possible.

VIC ‘SURVIVAL PACKAGE’
The Victorian Government has announced a $1.7 billion economic survival and jobs package to help businesses and workers survive the impacts of the pandemic. Measures including full payroll tax refunds, applications for commercial rent relief, paying outstanding supplier invoices and waiving liquor licensing fees.

FEDERAL SUPPORT
Income support for individuals
Over the next six months, the Government is temporarily expanding eligibility to income support payments and establishing a new, time-limited Coronavirus supplement to be paid at a rate of $550 per fortnight. To be paid to both existing and new recipients of JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance Jobseeker, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit. Read more.

Payments to support households
The Government is providing two separate $750 payments to social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders. The first payment will be made from 31 March 2020 and the second payment will be made from 13 July 2020. Read more.

Temporary early release of superannuation
The Government is allowing individuals affected by the Coronavirus to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21. Read more.

BOARD/GOVERNANCE IMPACTS
The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) has released fresh guidance of what organisations should do if they’re struggling to hold regular board meetings of officially complete their Annual Information Statement. More details here.

FREE ONLINE INFECTION CONTROL TRAINING
The Federal Government is offering workers across the health, aged care, disability and childcare sectors access to a free online training module on infection control. This training module takes about 30 minutes to complete and covers the fundamentals of infection prevention and control (IPC) for COVID-19.

ADVICE FOR LEGAL PROBLEMS
A range of legal problems are emerging following the rollout of measures such as quarantining people to limit the spread of the virus. Victoria Legal Aid can provide help over the phone 1300 792 387 (please note that there may have longer wait times). Advice can also be provided through a live webchat service here.

ANSWERING KIDS’ QUESTIONS
What is the Coronavirus? Can I have play dates and birthday parties? Can we help? The kids have questions! The Age has gathered them up and answered them in a way the young ones will understand. UNICEF Australia has also released ‘Eight tips to help comfort and protect children.’

CORONA ADVOCACY
VCOSS doesn’t have a formal view on school closures. However, we have been vocal highlighting the risks to certain groups of kids, parents, carers and families if schools were to be closed, even temporarily. Victoria needs a plan to look after everybody through this period.

Read our VCOSS Issues Alert‘Eight things to consider as we shut schools’.

Welcome to the latest VCOSS COVID-19 Sector Update.

We will send an email similar to this—comprising the latest high-level advice and resources relevant to the Victorian community sector—at least weekly, until the pandemic subsides.

All suitable content from these Sector Updates will also be posted to the VCOSS COVID-19 page.

The best place to access up-to-date health advice remains dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus

EMERGENCY WAGE
The Federal Government is establishing a “new, temporary wage that will be set at a higher rate than Newstart” for Australian workers set to lose their jobs due to the Coronavirus crisis. There’s no official announcement yet, but the story appeared in today’s Australian Financial Review ($).

INSURANCE UPDATES

The Victorian Managed Insurance Authority (VMIA), which is the insurer for much of the communtiy sector, has released a factsheet with general guidance about how COVID-19 might affect different insurance products. You’ll find a direct download link near the bottom of this page.

COURT CHANGES
Victoria’s Chief Magistrate, Judge Lisa Hannan, hasis making a raft of changes to how the courts will run during the Corona pandemic. These include adjourning some matters, moving others to telephone hearings and suspending all school visits. There will be no change to listing times for family violence ‘fast track’ matters. Changes are also being made at VCAT.

HOMELESSNESS FUNDING

The Victorian Government has announced $6 million for homelessness organisations “to help protect Victorians at risk of or experiencing homelessness because of the COVID-19 virus and manage any outbreaks”. This is welcome announcement in light of increased demand due to Coronavirus. You can read Launch Housing CEO Bevan Warner’s response here.

SUB-SECTOR MEETINGS
COVID-19 Community Inclusion Forum
Friday 20 March, 1:00pm – 2:30pm

DHHS is helping convene a COVID-19 information session for volunteering and community organisations that support community inclusion, wellbeing and social connection.

Speakers include Volunteering Victoria CEO Scott Miller, Neighbourhood Houses Victoria CEO Nicole Battle and Victorian Multicultural Commission chair Viv Nguyen.

Note: we are aware additional sub-sector meetings are being planned. We’ll let you know when we have details.

HAVE A PLAN
Our friends at QCOSS are making their pandemic emergency management plan public. Access it here.

HOMELESS PLANNING
Toronto Public Health have a planning guide for housing and homelessness service providers during a pandemic that may be useful for services in Victoria.

SUICIDE RISK
LIfeline says roughly a quarter of callers to its helpline over the past week wanted to talk about Coronavirus. The stress and anxiety this pandemic is causing for some people cannot be overstated. Lifeline is assuring the public it’s putting measures into place so the 13 11 14 phone line (and text service) will remain open “even if Australia is forced into lock down”.

STAFF CARE
Coronavirus has many people anxious about their personal safety and some staff may be worried about their health or the health of their clients. We encourage all workers to access their organisation’s employee welfare or support program. If you don’t have an internal service your employer may be using an external service.

KIDS IN AMERICA
An interesting development from the USA… the American Civil Liberties Union is suing immigration detention center operators and demanding the immediate release of detained individuals who face a heightened risk of illness or death because of COVID-19.

VCOSS OFFICE

Please be aware all VCOSS staff are working remotely at present. If you wish to contact a staff member directly you can find their email address here. For general inquiries please email vcoss@vcoss.org.au or call (03) 9235 1000.

VAADA and Sector representatives meeting with DHHS

The Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association (VAADA) is working closely with DHHS to minimize the impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus) on the AOD sector.

VAADA recently met with the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and other representatives from the AOD sector to plan for changes to and impacts on AOD services.

AOD sector working groups

Because of the range of AOD services, four working groups have been established on four key service areas:

  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Residential rehabilitation
  • Needle and syringe program/Harm reduction services/Medically supervised injecting room
  • Non-residential, group and community services

These groups will meet this week to discuss the specific issues facing services in these areas, and what strategies can be put in place to ensure critical services remain available to our clients.

Working group meetings will be held regularly. VAADA will post updates and information from these meetings on VAADA’s website (https://www.vaada.org.au/covid-19-sector-updates/) as information becomes available.

 

Service funding and Resources

Emergency planning tools

Organisations should be reviewing their business continuity plans and developing internal pandemic protocols. This will help organisations minimize the risk of infection for their staff and clients; ensure continuity of critical services; and respond quickly and effectively in an instance of COVID-19 exposure or infection.

Key policy and procedure samples

Primary care Connect – Infection Control Policy and Procedure

Primary Care Connect – COVID-19 Response Plan

WANADA – COVID-19 Response Plan

Service resources including personal protective equipment (PPE)

Many sectors and services are facing shortages of crucial supplies and equipment including toilet paper, food, and personal protective equipment (PPE). Unfortunately, PPE is being prioritized for acute primary health services so shortages of PPE are expected to continue for AOD and other non-acute services.

Efforts are currently underway to boost supplies like food, toilet paper and other necessities for community services, however, shortages are expected to continue in the short-term.

 

Resources, planning templates and information for services

 

Information for health services

The Victorian Government’s Health Services COVID-19 Pandemic Plan can be viewed here: https://www2.health.vic.gov.au/about/publications/researchandreports/covid-19-pandemic-plan-for-vic

Your best source on up-to-date information on COVID-19 is the Department of Health and Human Services website: dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus

You can also subscribe to daily updates from Victoria’s Chief Health Officer here: https://www2.health.vic.gov.au/newsletters

The VCOSS Community Services COVID-19 Forum by VCOSS can be found on their website: https://vcoss.org.au/analysis/covid19/

 

Residential services

The Communicable Disease Network Australia (CDNA) have developed guidelines for outbreaks of COVID-19 in residential care facilities: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidelines-for-outbreaks-in-residential-care-facilities

DHHS information for health care and residential care workers can be found here: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-health-care-and-residential-care-workers

 

Workplace guidance

It is important that AOD and community service providers are reviewing and implementing their business continuity plan. It is strongly advised that these are updated for COVID-19, or that a dedicated pandemic plan be developed.

The Department of Health and Human Services has produced an official ‘Guidance Note on COVID-19 and employment-related matters for the Community Services Sector’, available here: https://vcoss.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/CSS-Coronavirus-Guidance-Note-001.pdf

WorkSafe Victoria has also produced a pandemic planning guide for employers: https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/resources/preparing-pandemic-guide-employers

 

Resources in languages other than English

TranslatedCOVID-19 resources can be found here: https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/translated-coronavirus-covid-19-resources

 

Mental health

BeyondBlue has produced a resource relating to mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/looking-after-your-mental-health-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak

 

Key links

Victorian Chief Health Officer coronavirus alerts: https://www2.health.vic.gov.au/newsletters

Federal Government coronavirus alerts: https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert

Better Health provides some coronavirus myth-busting: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/blog/blogcollectionpage/novel-coronavirus-mythbusting

Easy English resources on coronavirus (from the NDIS): https://www.ndis.gov.au/media/2194/download

Wash your hands regularly printable poster: https://www2.health.vic.gov.au/about/publications/policiesandguidelines/wash-your-hands-regularly-poster

Cover your Cough, printable poster: https://www2.health.vic.gov.au/about/publications/policiesandguidelines/cover-your-cough-sneeze-poster

Good afternoon.

This is the second VCOSS COVID-19 Sector Update.

Our plan is to send an email similar to this—comprising the latest high-level advice and resources relevant to the Victorian community sector—at least weekly, until the pandemic subsides.

All suitable content from these Sector Updates will also be posted to the VCOSS COVID-19 page.

The best place to access up-to-date health advice remains dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus

WORKPLACE GUIDANCE

The Department of Health and Human Services has produced an official ‘Guidance Note on COVID-19 and employment-related matters for the Community Services Sector’. This document is availabe in both PDF and DOC format on the VCOSS COVID-19 page.

LEGAL HELP
JusticeConnect’s Not-for-profit Law team is delivering tailored legal support for community organisations and not-for-profits that are grappling with complex legal issues arising from measures to contain COVID-19. These may include ensuring client safety, securing data with increasingly remote workforces, and managing cancelled public events.

PANDEMIC POLICY
The Australian Institute of Community Directors has produced a free Epidemic/Pandemic Policy template that you can download and tailor to your organisation. Access it here.

SUB-SECTOR MEETINGS

Aboriginal Community and Health Sector Digital Forum
Wednesday 18 March, 9.00 – 10.00 am

This forum hosted by DHHS Deputy Secretary Amity Durham, will involve presentations from the Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, and VACCHO Chief Medical Officer, Nadia Lusis.

You can stream the forum here (no registration required). To ask a question during the forum, text 0447 913 039 or visit Slido and use the event code #COVIDA19AS.

Note: we are aware additional sub-sector meetings are being planned. We’ll let you know when we have details.

COVID-19 ADVOCACY

Commonwealth must deliver emergency payments to prevent mass homelessness.
Homelessness Australia.
The national peak body for homelessness has urged the Federal Government to immediately deliver emergency payments to cover the rent for casual and contract workers who lose their income during the pandemic to prevent a “tsunami of homelessness”.

A little relief will go a long way for thousands struggling due to COVID-19
Consumer Action Law Center, VCOSS and others.

More than 30 community service organisations around the country are calling on companies providing essential services such as energy, water, finance, rental housing and telecommunications to take additional steps to support their community during the COVID-19 crisis.

Open Letter to the Prime Minister on COVID-19 Response.
Australian Council of Social Service.
ACOSS has written to the Prime Minister with recommendations on the COVID19 response to support people who are most vulnerable at this time. “We must work together as a community to deal with the health crisis in a way that supports people in the greatest need,” ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said.

VCOSS OFFICE

Please be aware all VCOSS staff are working remotely at present. If you wish to contact a staff member directly you can find their email address here. For general inquiries please email vcoss@vcoss.org.au or call (03) 9235 1000.

VCOSS-DHHS Community Sector Forum

This vital event allowed the community sector to hear directly from the experts and ask questions. Speakers included:

  • Minister Luke Donnellan on the government’s response to the pandemic
  • DHHS Dep. Sec. Argiri Alisandratos on implications for the community sector
  • DHHS Director Industrial Relations Jesse Maddison on workplace/IR implications
  • Chief Health Officer Dr Brett Sutton regarding prevention, responding to infections, etc.
  • Director Emergency Management Andrea Spiteri regarding emergency response planning and resources

Resources from the meeting:

  • A fully accessible video recording of the forum will soon be available here.
  • A self-assessment for risk of coronavirus flowchart is available here.
  • Posters (which were available at the event) can be downloaded here. These are perfect for displaying in workplaces and community centre.

We encourage you to share these resources with people who weren’t able to attend.

While many questions were answered today, it wasn’t possible to get to all of them. We are working with DHHS on providing answers and will communicate these as soon as possible.

For now, the best source of accurate and up-to-date information remains:

dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus

Materials are also available in 25 languages here.

Other ways to stay informed:

Anglicare WA have generously shared their COVID-19 plan with the COSS network.

If other organisations are in a position to share any of their plans, the sector would be very grateful. Please get in touch if you are happy to share your policies or plans.

VCOSS will continue to follow the guidance of government and health experts our response and support to the sector will evolve as necessary.

AOD Sector Funding

DHHS have indicated that state funding for services is assured:

The department does not intend to withdraw or vary Service agreement funding as a result of service impacts arising from COVID-19, this includes clients being unable to attend. Where this situation occurs, it should be captured as part of standard record keeping procedures and communicated to your Agency Performance and Systems Support (APSS) adviser.

You can access this and other information on the DHHS Funded Agency Channel here: https://fac.dhhs.vic.gov.au/

Publicly funded services operating at reduced capacity due to COVID-19 will have their current funding levels maintained.