Novel coronavirus

The health and wellbeing of our staff, children and young people, women and families remains our top priority during this public health emergency.

We are working closely with our peak bodies and service providers on the best ways to provide essential services as safely as possible. This may mean some changes to how services are delivered.

We are all working hard to keep children, young people, women and families safe.

Stay informed

It is important that you stay informed about what is happening and follow the advice provided by the health authorities. You will find the latest information:

  • Australian Government — for the latest developments and changes in response to COVID-19
  • Queensland Health — for information what is COVID-19, how it spreads, self-isolation and when to self-quarantine.

For foster and kinship carers

It's important that you stay informed about what's happening with COVID-19. Please visit the Queensland Health website for information on:

  • what is COVID-19 and how it spreads
  • what you should do if you have COVID-19
  • what you should do if you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19
  • when to self-quarantine.

Who can I talk to about COVID-19 and my duty of care to a child or young person?

Please talk to your foster and kinship care agency if you have any questions or concerns about COVID-19 and how it may impact you and the child or young person in your care.

You can also talk to your child safety service centre or call the Foster and Kinship Care Support Line on 1300 729 309.

What information about COVID-19 do I need to give to Child Safety or my foster and kinship care agency to help inform decisions and planning?

You will need to provide information on whether any member of your household:

  • has returned from overseas recently
  • has cold/flu symptoms
  • is in self-quarantine or home isolation
  • has/have had a COVID-19 diagnosis or has been in close contact with someone who has
  • is immunocompromised or at a higher risk to complications from COVID-19.

Should face-to-face meetings or home visits to carers be limited?

Yes. It's important to follow the advice from Queensland Health for you and your family to stay safe.

We may arrange to make contact with you by telephone, Skype or similar. For new contact arrangements, we may ask if you can download a suitable app or can access a device with a suitable app so the child in your care can talk by video call over the internet.

These arrangements will be made for carer assessments, re-assessments and case planning discussions with your child safety officer.

Will COVID-19 responses impact family contact visits?

Yes. In line with advice from Queensland Health, members should not be physically present in family contact meetings if they:

  • have returned from overseas recently
  • have cold/flu symptoms
  • are in self-quarantine or home isolation
  • currently have/have had a COVID-19 diagnosis or been in close contact with someone who has.

It's important for children and young people to maintain connections to their parents, siblings and families, particularly in times of uncertainty or stress.

Maintaining family contact is a legal requirement. It's critical to maintain relational permanency for all children and the Child Placement Principle for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people.

The health of everyone in your household is important. We'll assess family contact visits on a case by case basis and plan how contact will be made, rather than if contact will be made.

How will family contact visits change?

In most cases, it's not a question of 'if contact visits occurs' but 'how contact visits occurs'. Here are some steps we will take to guide how family contact visits will change:

  • Check that people do not have cold/flu symptoms — if anyone involved in the family contact visits displays cold/flu symptoms, please call your child safety officer. This includes carers and your family members, the child's family members and child safety staff.
  • Check if people are immunocompromised — or at higher risk of complications from COVID-19 — child safety staff will consider information from carers and parents about their risks to COVID-19. This includes people over 70 years old, over 60 years old with pre-existing conditions, or Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people over 50 years old. If any person involved in the family contact visits has received medical advice to self-isolate, and are actively taking steps to do so, then contact arrangements will be adjusted. Child Safety will make alternative arrangements by telephone, Skype meeting or similar.
  • Consider the location — this will be considered in line with advice from the Australian Government on public gatherings.
  • Maintain good hygiene practice — it is important we all follow the advice from Queensland Health to help stop the spread of COVID-19:
    • Clean your hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rubs.
    • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing.
    • Avoid touching your face, nose and mouth. And avoid shaking hands.
    • Practice social distancing, which includes staying 1.5m away from others as much as you can.

What happens when a child or young person comes into my care and does not display symptoms?

As a carer, you'll receive all information about the child or young person as part of our regional placement processes. This will include any advice on care arrangements or circumstances in which a child or young person may have had contact with someone else who has identified as having COVID-19.

You should also be advised if the child or young person has any medical issues, such as asthma, that may require medical attention if they start displaying COVID-19 symptoms.

You'll need to ensure all required medical aids are available to the child or young person, such as asthma inhalers, Ventolin or any other medication.

If there are any difficulties with obtaining medical aids, please call your foster and kinship care agency or child safety service centre.

The Carer Connect app will help ensure information about a child's needs is shared quickly. We encourage you to download the app, if you have not done so already.

What is happening with school closures?

In line with current advice from Education Queensland, all Queensland state schools will take an early break from Monday 30 March and reopen on Monday 20 April 2020, unless health authorities advise otherwise.

For children of essential workers or vulnerable children, such as those in out-of-home care, schools will provide supervision during the week of 30 March to 3 April 2020. Essential workers are those who must continue to work in their jobs during this difficult time.

Independent and Catholic schools are making decisions based upon their own situations, so please check with your relevant school for details about attendance requirements.

What should I do if my child's school or childcare closes and I still need to go to work?

In this situation, please call your foster and kinship care agency to arrange support.

Some carers offer respite care. Carers who offer these short breaks will talk to their foster and kinship care agencies about their availability.

We encourage you to think about your own support networks. Should a child or young person require care while you're at work, you can use your support networks for child care and support for up to 48 hours. This may be particularly important for shift workers.

If you have someone in your own support network who can safely meet the child's care needs, you must talk to your child safety officer about this arrangement and provide the person's name, address and phone number. Members of your extended family, or the child's extended family (for example, an aunt or older sibling), can also help under these arrangements. However, you must also consider the information in the question 'What information about COVID-19 do I need to give to Child Safety or my foster and kinship care agency to help inform decisions and planning?' before making this arrangement.

Please talk to your foster and kinship care agency and your child safety service centre about before you make these arrangements.

Should I continue to drive the child or young person in my car?

Yes, you can continue to drive the child or young person in your car to essential appointments in line with travel restrictions that may be in place in your area. For the latest information on travel restrictions, please visit the Queensland Health website.

Can I claim reimbursements without visiting the child safety service centre?

Yes, the preferred process for claiming reimbursement of pre-approved expenses is through the Carer Connect app (you can scan and send receipts) or you can post the paperwork to your child safety service centre.

What happens if I or someone in my household displays flu like symptoms?

If anyone in your household displays flu like symptoms of fever, coughing, fatigue, sore throat and shortness of breath, please call a doctor or 13HEALTH (13 43 25 84) immediately.

Once you have received advice from a health professional, please call your child safety service centre and your foster and kinship care agency about the situation.

As a carer, you can consent to COVID-19 testing. Testing for COVID-19 is a diagnostic test and similar to other instances of seeking medical or other health treatment for non-routine, newly presenting conditions. Testing for COVID-19 is a daily care decision that you can consent to.

If a medical practitioner is satisfied that a young person is competent to give consent, then the young person can provide consent.

COVID-19 testing will require a health professional to take a swab from the back of the young person's nose or throat and that swab is tested in a laboratory for the virus.

What happens if I or someone in my household is tested positive for COVID-19?

You must immediately call your child safety service centre and your foster and kinship care agency to discuss your situation and support needs.

You will be supported to care for everyone in your household in line with medical advice you receive, including any hospitalisation or home quarantine measures that are needed. These responses will depend on the severity of symptoms and any underling health conditions of other household members.

What support is available if our household is under self-quarantine?

Please call your child safety service and foster and kinship care agency to discuss support needs.

If required, you can also call the Community Recovery Hotline on 1800 173 349. This hotline is to help people who have been advised by a medical professional or Queensland Health to self-quarantine at home and have no other means of support.

How do I explain COVID19 to the child or young person in my care?

It's natural for children and young people to be anxious about what they see and hear as the community works together to respond to COVID-19. There is a range of useful links and resources on this page to help you explain what’s happening to the child or young person in care.

A child in my care is due to travel overseas shortly. Should the planned overseas travel proceed?

No. You will find that latest advice on the Australian government's Smartraveller website.

Are court matters still proceeding?

The courts are currently open and operating. As the COVID-19 situation evolves, the courts may reduce services for other court matters, however, child protection will remain a priority.

If the situation worsens and there is widespread illness, courts may be closed in affected areas (regional closures). Your child safety officer will inform you of any changes to court dates and court processes.

For service providers

Is my organisation expected to continue service delivery?

At the moment, we expect funded services to continue service delivery, with appropriate business continuity planning and safeguards put in place to reduce risks related to COVID-19.

Unlike a natural disaster, a public health emergency like COVID-19 can develop over several months, and it is important that clients who are already experiencing vulnerability are able to continue to access support over this time.

We understand you may require to be flexible in your service delivery over the coming months, and you may need to negotiate changes to your contracted obligations as the situation develops.

If your organisation is unable to meet your contracted obligations due to the impacts of COVID-19, please contact your contract manager in writing promptly. You will need to advise how service delivery has been affected and what strategies you are implementing to minimise the impact. We will work with you to manage an agreed way forward, and if appropriate, a variation to your contract.

What services does the department consider essential?

All services that are funded by the department and promote the safety of children, families and women should be treated as essential services. Easily identified essential services include, but are not limited to:

  • licenced care services and foster and kinship care services
  • services that respond to the safety needs of women and children who are at risk of or experiencing domestic and family violence or have experienced sexual violence (e.g. domestic and family violence services, women's shelters, sexual assault services, women's health services)
  • services that support vulnerable families to meet the safety needs of children (e.g. Family Wellbeing Services, Intensive Family Support Services)
  • services that interface directly with Child Safety to increase the safety of children in or at risk of coming to the attention of child protection system (e.g. Family and Child Connect Services)
  • services that provide direct support to vulnerable young people (e.g. youth services)

Non-essential services would include:

  • convening events
  • attending events
  • face-to-face group training
  • large meetings or group-based interventions where social distancing cannot be assured
  • youth services and activities that are primarily social or recreational in nature.

My organisation is funded by multiple government agencies to provide different services. Whose advice do I follow?

We can only provide advice on the service types we fund you to deliver. We consider our funded services as essential, and these services should continue to be provided as much as possible.

If your service is directed by another government agency to stop delivering a particular service type they fund, you should follow their directions.

Should we still make home visits and cold calls?

Where appropriate, we encourage you to transition face-to-face service delivery to other forms of service delivery, such as phone and video calls. We recognise this may not be possible or appropriate in all situations, and you should use your discretion regarding making home visits based on vulnerability of children and families, and health risks to you and children and families. This is in addition to assessing usual risks (dogs, guns on property, DFV etc.).

To protect you and the families you work with, we recommended you cease cold calling and instead use text messages, letters and phone calls to make first contact with families. Phone calls are an opportunity to screen families first and ask some key questions about their health, such as:

  • Have you or any member of your household/family travelled overseas in the past 14 days?
  • Have you or any member of the household/family been diagnosed and/or being tested for COVID-19, or come into contact with anyone who has?
  • Do you or any member of your household/family feel unwell or have any of the following symptoms – fever, a cough, sore throat, tiredness, or shortness of breath?

When providing services in which you interact with clients face-to-face, please follow Queensland Health directions regarding maintaining social distance, proper hygiene, and not working if feeling unwell.

Do our staff need to ask if clients are in self-isolation?

Your staff should consider ringing clients to check whether they are in self-isolation before they make a home visit or attend a face-to-face meeting. If it's not appropriate or possible to ring ahead, use your organisation's risk assessment strategy to assess the risk and to set mitigating controls.

Mitigating controls could include:

  • making the contact other than face-to-face (where appropriate) — for example, via a phone call
  • wearing personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • limiting or avoiding contact until the 14-day isolation period has expired.

For up-to-date information on self-isolation requirements, visit the Queensland Health website .

What happens if we don't have enough qualified staff to keep our service running?

We recognise that some services have specific licensing requirements (such as Licensed Care Services) and qualification requirements for staff (such as Blue Cards), and that finding additional qualified staff in a public health crisis may be challenging.

If your service continuity is affected because of a lack of available and qualified staff, please contact your contract manager as soon as possible. Your contract manager will work with you to explore all options available. Where all other options are exhausted, we will consider relaxing the Minimum Qualification Standards arrangements on a case-by-case basis, and work with our Licensing and Blue Card teams to expedite applications.

If we have to shut down or significantly limit service delivery due to a confirmed case of COVID-19, will our departmental funding be affected?

We will continue funding services while the public health emergency declaration is in place, including where contracted obligations are not able to be met or are only able to be partially met. You will be able to continue paying staff if it is not possible for staff to work from home or attend their workplace.

We expect you to work with us to explore all reasonable options for maintaining your current service delivery, and where this is not possible we ask for your help in working with us to fill other service delivery gaps that will unfold during this crisis.

If your service agreement is due to expire while the declaration is still in place, we can grant a 12-month contract extension. Please contact your contract manager if this is likely for your organisation.

We are unable to provide advice on services we do not fund.

Can my organisation access advanced payments in an emergency?

In the case of an emergency, you may make a written request for an instalment of your funding in advance — for example, where you need employ additional staff due to the impacts of COVID-19 on staffing.

Please contact your contract officer in writing as soon as possible if you need to request an emergency advance payment.

Will my organisation's funding be impacted if I receive assistance through the Australian Government's Boosting Cash Flow for Employers scheme?

Your DCSYW funding will not be impacted if you are able to access additional funding through this scheme.

Not-for-profit organisations, including charities, are eligible for the Australian Government's Boosting Cash Flow for Employers scheme. The scheme provides up to $100,000 in two payments to eligible organisations and small businesses to help them keep staff employed. More information on the scheme is available on the Australian Treasury and the Australian Tax Office websites.

You are not required to notify us if you receive funding under this scheme.

How can we protect vulnerable staff and clients?

Queensland Health identifies the following groups of people as at higher risk of serious infection:

  • people with compromised immune systems (for example, people who have cancer) or chronic medical conditions
  • elderly people
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (as they have higher rates of chronic illness)
  • people in group residential settings
  • people in detention facilities.

We strongly encourage you to continue to support people who fall within these groups, and take additional measures to help protect their safety and wellbeing. This could include shifting face-to-face visits to phone or video calls, where possible, and continuing to maintain social distancing and good hygiene practices.

You should also support staff who fall into a higher risk group to work remotely or in any other way that minimises risk of exposure, such as restricting access to physical premises, reducing group activities, and exploring alternatives to public transport.

What do I do if staff or clients have been in close contact with a person who has COVID-19?

A person must follow the self-isolation requirements set by Queensland Health if they have come in close contact with anyone confirmed to have COVID-19.

Close contact means being face-to-face for at least 15 minutes, or being in the same closed space for at least 2 hours.

If our service has to shut down due to a confirmed case of COVID-19, who should we refer clients to?

We encourage service providers to work together, across their local communities and to support each other and your clients during this time. As part of your business continuity planning you should be considering alternative services in your local area that could accept referrals and existing clients should you need to shut down.

We know this may be challenging, particularly in some regional and remote locations. If you are forced to close, please contact your contract officer as soon as possible and we will support you to develop options for referral of clients.

What can we do if our staff are not available to work because of school closures?

On Thursday 26 March 2020, the Premier announced that all state schools would be student free from 30 March to 2 April. Students whose parents are essential workers are still able to attend, and will be supervised by school staff.

If you employ staff to provide a DCSYW-funded services, and a staff member's role includes promoting the safety of women, children and families, then they are essential workers and their children will be able to access school during this time. (For more information please see What services does the department consider essential?).

We recognise that caring for children who are not attending school has the potential to impact on staffing levels and service delivery. We are working with the Department of Education on this issue and further guidance will be provided as it becomes available. Please contact your contract officer to discuss any impacts and concerns.

Who do we contact with further questions and issues?

Please contact your contract manager if:

  • the contracted obligations of your organisation are impacted by COVID-19
  • your organisation has a confirmed case of COVID-19 (you are required to make a critical incident notification)
  • a child in care (including residential care) is confirmed as having COVID-19 (you are required to make a critical incident notification).