For service providers

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.

Delivering essential services

Is my organisation expected to continue service delivery?

Yes. 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:

  • 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.

What do the relaxation of restrictions mean for face-to-face delivery of our services?

On 15 May, a revised Home Confinement, Movement and Gathering Direction (No.5) came into effect.

As per the previous direction, a person who resides in Queensland is permitted to leave their principal place of residence:

  • to perform work or volunteering, or carry out or conduct an essential business, activity or undertaking, and the work, business activity or undertaking to be performed is of a nature that cannot reasonably be performed from the person's principal place of residence;
  • to avoid injury or illness or escape a risk of harm, e.g. escaping a risk of harm related to domestic and family violence or accessing support from a domestic and family violence support service.

All services funded by the department that promote the safety of children, families and women should be treated as essential services.

The revised direction has eased restrictions in relation to the number of visitors a person can receive at their residence — now up to five visitors who are not ordinarily members of the person's household. This does not prevent workers or volunteers entering a place of residence and they are not counted as visitors.

It remains critically important that we continue to follow the advice of the health professionals in maintaining social distancing and practicing good hygiene. If you are working in people's homes, you should take extra precautions.

In relation to working from home we recommend, as per Queensland Health advice (PDF), that employees continue to work from home where employers support this occurring. Should employees choose to return to the office, employers might consider staggering rostered shifts to support physical distancing and hygiene requirements.

All organisations have obligations and responsibilities under Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) legislation, and this is a key consideration prior to transitioning staff back into the workplace. All workplaces should have a WHS plan to manage COVID-19 and display the plan prominently in the workplace.

Should we still be transporting clients to other locations (e.g. a women's shelter)?

Yes, transporting a client or family to a safe location is considered an essential service, and can be continued. It is critical that vulnerable women, children and young people continue to be supported during this time.

When transporting clients, you should continue to practise social distancing wherever possible (e.g. encouraging a client to sit in the back seat) and good hygiene, and ensure the vehicle is cleaned (PDF) properly.

Can staff cross the NSW–QLD border?

Yes, they can continue to cross the border between New South Wales and Queensland if they are delivering essential services — for example, supporting someone fleeing domestic and family violence, or facilitating access to siblings or parents for children in care.

More information on border restrictions is available in the Queensland Health Border Restrictions Direction.

What impact will the Home Confinement, Movement and Gathering Direction have on my organisation?

The Queensland Government's Home Confinement, Movement and Gathering Direction that came into effect on 15 May 2020 does not change the way services we fund can be delivered.

The Direction explicitly states that you can still leave your place of residence to 'perform work or volunteering, or carry out or conduct an essential business, activity or undertaking, and the work, business activity or undertaking to be performed is of a nature that cannot reasonably be performed from the person's principal place of residence'.

The Direction also confirms that the following activities relevant to our funded services are permitted:

  • facilitating family contact arrangements for children in care (including transportation and/or attendance) where safe to do so
  • carers, or any members of the child's safety and support network, leaving home to perform functions relating to meeting the needs of a child in care, including transporting the child to another care arrangement or taking a child to day care.
  • enabling or advising women and children to leave their principal place of residence to escape domestic and family violence.

Following the COVID-19 DFV Summit, Queensland Health has updated the Home Confinement, Movement and Gathering Direction to make it absolutely clear that people can leave their principal place of residence if they feel unsafe and/or to access support from domestic and family violence support services.

For other service delivery activities, please refer to the FAQ 'Is my organisation expected to continue service delivery?' above.

Funding and contracts

Can my organisation internally re-allocate funding to enable more people to work from home?

Yes, you can re-allocate funding to enable more of your workforce to work and deliver services remotely. This may include purchasing additional IT equipment, video conferencing software, additional data, and other business needs for working from home.

When re-allocating funding, your focus should be on ensuring continuity of service delivery and support to clients. Please discuss your needs and proposed re-allocation with your contract manager.

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.

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.

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

Can my organisation access advance payments in an emergency?

Yes, 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?

No, your funding from our department 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.

Is my organisation eligible for the JobKeeper payment?

Your organisation may be eligible for the Jobkeeper payment. Not-for-profit organisations and charities are eligible if they estimate their turnover has fallen, or will likely fall, by 15 per cent or more relative to a comparable period. A fact sheet on the JobKeeper payment is available on the Australian Treasury website.

If you receive the JobKeeper payment, your departmental funding will not be impacted. You are not required to notify us if you receive JobKeeper funding.

Working with clients safely

Where can I find out which locations are most affected by COVID-19?

Information about COVID-19 numbers within the Hospital and Health Service catchments and local government area are available on the Queensland Government website.

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, such as dogs, guns on property, DFV.

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 your household/family arrived in Queensland from interstate (and meet the self-quarantine requirements outlined in the Border Restrictions Direction, i.e. have been in a COVID-19 hotspot)?
  • 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.

What video conferencing options should my organisation use?

We recommend using Skype or Microsoft Teams for video conferencing and engaging with clients as an alternative to face-to-face meetings. Skype and Microsoft Teams are free platforms that can be used on desktop computers, laptops and all mobile devices with either the Skype or Microsoft Teams app.

Advice from the Queensland Government Customer and Digital Group is that Zoom or WhatsApp are not recommended for day-to-day business, and cannot be used where confidential, sensitive or private information is being shared or discussed. This is due to privacy and confidentiality requirements under the Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld), Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Act 2012 and Youth Justice Act 1992 (Qld), as well as broader provisions under the Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld).

For more information about web conferencing security visit the Australian Cyber Security Centre website.

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.

Responding to a possible diagnosis or diagnosis of COVID-19 within the care system

Who should I tell if a child or young person in care is awaiting diagnosis or is diagnosed with COVID-19?

The child or young person's Child Safety Officer (CSO) or the Child Safety After Hours Service Centre (1800 177 135) should be notified, no matter what their living arrangement.

What current Queensland Health directions apply to residential care, Supported Independent Living and foster and kinship care?

All of these arrangements, including residential care, are considered households, therefore, the appropriate direction is the current Home Confinement, Movement and Gathering Direction directive.

Residential care funded by Child Safety does not fall under the Queensland Health Aged Care Directive. The Aged Care Directive relates to residential aged care facilities meaning a facility at which accommodation, and personal care or nursing care or both, are provided to a person in respect of whom a residential care subsidy or a flexible care subsidy is payable under the Aged Care Act 1977 (Cth).

What happens when a child or young person in care is awaiting diagnosis or is diagnosed?

The best support model for the child or young person will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Some children will be able to be supported at home within their residential setting or within their foster care home with extra precautions as outlined in the self-isolating guide (PDF). Others may be better supported in a new location with their own support workers.

Some children and young people may require hospitalisation.

If a young person has been tested and is awaiting diagnosis or has been diagnosed, then contact your child safety service centre (CSSC) immediately. They will work with Queensland Health to develop the best model of support.

A range of factors will be considered including:

  • the young person's health conditions
  • the severity of COVID-19 symptoms
  • the level of care required
  • resources available in the young person's current home setting (for example, appropriate space to self-isolate)
  • risks to others in the same household
  • risks to staff.

Most people with COVID-19 can be managed without medical intervention, as long as they are supported with all of their immediate needs and can self-isolate. Where advised by medical staff, efforts should be directed to managing the young person's illness outside of a hospital.

Temporary/emergency accommodation options are considered as a last resort when a young person who has been advised to self-isolate by a medical provider cannot be supported in their current home setting or another funded home arrangement.

Child Safety will also work with you to ensure the model of support meets your industrial obligations.

What happens when a foster carer is awaiting diagnosis or is diagnosed?

Foster carers play one of the most valued roles within the child protection system. If a foster carer is diagnosed they should immediately advise their support agency and their CSSC.

Depending on the circumstances, a support model will be discussed with the foster care family while the foster carer is recovering.

Support models include self-isolation at home, while other family members self-quarantine. This is considered appropriate as pre-diagnosis all household members have already been exposed.

Other models may require children to be cared for outside of the family home while the foster carer recovers. Precautions will be put in place that consider a child's exposure to the virus. This could include the child and new carers wearing masks and gloves, practising social distancing and washing their hands regularly.

What happens when a young person in Supported Independent Living Services (SILS) is awaiting diagnosis or is diagnosed?

Young people supported in SILS may need some extra check-ins from their support agency to monitor their health.

If a young person in SILS requires extra support due to COVID-19, please contact their CSO to discuss a care plan.

Those visiting the young person should wear a mask, gloves, practise social distancing and engage in regular handwashing.

What if a child is leaving care?

During this period, young people should continue to be supported with leaving care planning and aftercare support, including linking the young person to CREATE and Next Step Plus.

If a young person needs extra support, such as counselling, or help gaining employment or accessing accommodation, this can be managed through a support services arrangement.

Services for children and young people

If a service provider is required to provide a different or enhanced model of support due to a young person awaiting or having a diagnosis of COVID-19 then they should contact their CSSC to discuss the best support model for that young person.

The department recognises that service providers may incur additional costs in maintaining service continuity during the COVID-19 pandemic. In these circumstances please contact your contract manager to discuss a plan for the additional costs that may be incurred.

What to do if a child or young person in care refuses to cooperate with isolation measures

If a young person is struggling to cooperate with self-isolation rules then the following can be considered:

  • Support the existing relationship between the carer and the young person, to encourage them to cooperate.
  • If the young person has a Positive Behaviour Support Plan, use the strategies outlined if relevant to assist with cooperation.
  • Contact the National Coronavirus Health information on 1800 020 080.
  • Contact your local CSSC if non-cooperation is posing a risk to themselves or others
  • Explore whether the young person is willing to download the COVIDSafe app on their phone.

What to do if a child or young person in care refuses to be tested for COVID-19

Like testing for any medical issue there are benefits in knowing what is affecting a young person's health so that appropriate treatment can be administered. Being tested for COVID-19 may raise a degree of anxiety for the young person and carers may need to rely on their relationship with the young person to encourage them to undertake testing. It will be important to engage people that the young person trusts to help them understand the benefits of having a test.

Provide as much information as possible regarding the testing process and what the likely treatment options will include to help contain concern. If the young person has a Positive Behaviour Support Plan, use the strategies outlined, if relevant, to assist with cooperation. If the young person absolutely refuses, and displays symptoms that are common to COVID-19, such as a fever, shortness of breath and cough, manage them in the household as you would a person with a positive test result.

What support is provided for home-schooling when the child or young person is unable/unwilling to attend school?

Young people who receive a Child Safety service are encouraged to attend school when able. If the young person is unable or unwilling to attend school, make contact with the school regarding the work that is available to them online. Most schools are now setting daily work and tasks and remain in contact with the young person via email, apps or phone. Ensure the young person has what they need to undertake school work online, such as a computer/device and internet connection. Most schools are able to assist students with access to devices should they not have their own.

Staffing

Can our staff access child care for their children?

On 2 April 2020, the Prime Minister announced that child care would remain available and free to children of essential workers. Childcare centres are being encouraged to stay open and prioritise children of parents who are working and vulnerable children for whom continuity of child care is important.

All staff working for a service we fund are considered essential workers and can continue to access school and child care.

We recognise that some parents may choose not to send their children to child care. You will need to follow your organisation's leave policies and procedures in these instances. Please notify your contract manger if this impacts your ability to deliver services to clients.

Can our staff access special pandemic leave?

On 2 April 2020, the Prime Minister announced that 103 Awards, including those related to the social services sector, would be updated to provide employees with:

  • two weeks of unpaid leave
  • double their usual annual leave at half pay.

Please check the Fair Work Ombudsman website for more details and eligibility requirements.

We will continue funding services while the public health emergency declaration is in place. You will be able to continue paying staff if your organisation is directly affected by COVID-19 and associated health directions.

Additional paid leave arrangements for staff should be considered at an organisational level.

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 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 their 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.

Health concerns

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.

What do I do if a staff member or client has a confirmed case of COVID-19?

You must make a critical incident notification if your organisation or a child in care is confirmed as having COVID-19.

Helping children and young people with disability in care

Will NDIS plans continue during COVID-19?

Yes, NDIS plans can still be used for children and young people to get help and stay safe. Some supports may look different or need to change — for example therapists might use technology to help a child or young person.

You can ask the NDIS to use a child's or young person's plan in different ways — for example, if community access has stopped, the child or young person could receive support in their home.

Carers need to think about what supports are important and what supports might need to change.

The NDIA has special teams of planners who can help. The child or young person's CSO or guardian will need to contact the Supports Coordinator or NDIS.

What happens if the NDIS plan is about to end?

The NDIA is making changes to how it reviews NDIS plans. The NDIS plan will not finish. It will be extended for 12 months and will have the same funding.

The NDIS planning or review meeting will be held over the phone. When the new plan is approved, it will replace the extended plan.

For more information visit the NDIS website.

Further questions

Who do we contact with further questions and issues?

Please contact your contract manager.