For service providers

Delivering essential services

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

On 3 July 2020, Stage 3 of the Roadmap for Easing Restrictions came into effect, with further easing of restrictions specified in the Movement and Gathering Direction (No.2).

This means your organisation can deliver all funded services face-to-face, with appropriate safeguards to reduce risks and help keep staff and clients safe.

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

In relation to working from home, Stage 3 of the Roadmap states that office-based workers can return to their place of work. Employees can continue to work from home if they do not need to have contact with clients, where employers support this occurring. Employers must have a plan in place for physical distancing and hygiene requirements in the workplace.

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.

How will eased restrictions on the size of public gatherings affect our organisation's business?

A maximum of 100 people are now permitted for gatherings in public spaces and homes.

The increased gathering size limits allow you to increase the number of attendees at activities such as community consultations, group face-to-face training and other large meetings, as per health guidelines.

If you are coordinating these activities, you must ensure safeguards are in place. This includes a plan to promote physical distancing at entry, exit and during the event. The plan must also cover hygiene facilities and cleaning.

It is reasonable and likely that some people may have concerns about attending group events in person and alternative arrangements may be needed for some participants.

It is advisable to collect attendees' personal details to assist Queensland Health undertake contact tracing, if requested. You will need to consider privacy requirements and advise attendees their information may be provided to Queensland Health for the sole purpose of COVID-19 contact tracing, if required.

Can staff cross the NSW–QLD border?

Yes, they can continue to cross the border between New South Wales and Queensland.

More information on border restrictions is available on the Queensland Government COVID-19 website.

Can we deliver services in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities?

From midday 10 July 2020, there are no entry requirements, quarantine requirements and travel restrictions for Queensland’s remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The whole of Queensland now operates under Stage 3 of the Roadmap to easing Queensland’s restrictions.

The Chief Health Officer may decide to re-introduce restrictions if an outbreak of COVID-19 occurs in a community. Decisions will be made by the Chief Health Officer based on public health conditions for each community and in consultation with local leaders.

Visit the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Partnerships website for further information.

Funding and contracts

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.

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

Should we still make home visits and cold calls?

While there are currently no restrictions that apply to cold calling, your staff should still carefully consider whether to visit families in their homes unannounced. Our advice is that unannounced visits should only be undertaken when it's necessary to contact the family quickly and other options to make contact, such as phone or videoconference, have been unsuccessful.

If you consider a cold call or home visit is necessary, your staff should practise social distancing and follow health guidelines in relation to hygiene and the use of personal protective equipment.

What video conferencing options should my organisation use?

We recommend using Skype or Microsoft Teams for video conferencing 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.

How can our organisation manage cybersecurity risks?

Your organisation's COVID-19 response may have seen a greater reliance on technology systems, particularly for those organisations who continue to have staff working remotely. We recommend that that continue to review your cybersecurity arrangements and amend systems, protocols and infrastructure to manage any possible increased risks. Security protocols must be in place for work devices used remotely, and even more importantly for any personal devices used for work.

Your staff should be aware of how to manage specific cybersecurity risks associated with working remotely or with different equipment.

Your organisation should also develop protocols to protect client confidentiality and the security of your network. This might include:

  • protect log-on details and passwords
  • logging off when away from devices for any amount of time.
  • only using the organisation's systems to record work-related information
  • using reputable security software.

More information about managing cybersecurity risk is available on the Stay Smart Online 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.

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.

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 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 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.

Staffing

What financial assistance is available for our casual workforce if they contract COVID-19?

Casual workers who face financial hardship through enforced quarantine may be eligible for the Queensland Government one-off hardship payment of $1500.

To be eligible they must test positive to COVID-19 on or after 5 June 2020, and be required to self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days. They must have also have contracted COVID-19 outside of their workplace.

More information on eligibility for the payment is available on the Queensland Government website.

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.