Non-Government Community, Disability and Health Service Providers

Information for Non-Government Community, Disability and Health Service Providers in relation to COVID-19

The following information assists non-government community, disability and health service providers (NGOs), including staff, volunteers and clients, to protect themselves and the community during the COVID-19 crisis.

This page provides resources and materials for NGOs related to COVID-19. Please use these materials and continue to refer to reliable sources of information where needed.

Now more than ever, it is important that you implement standard illness prevention strategies, including:

  • providing accessible handwashing facilities and/or hand sanitiser (containing at least 60% alcohol)
  • screening clients and staff, and if someone is unwell direct them to stay home if possible and seek testing
  • performing routine cleaning, especially of frequently touched surfaces and objects.

It is also important to access and provide accurate information on illness prevention to the community. For community information please see the ACT COVID-19 website or the Community Services Directorate website.

Recent updates

THE ACT IS IN LOCKDOWN – ONLY LEAVE YOUR HOME FOR ESSENTIAL REASONS. This includes provision of Essential Services, outlined below.

For the latest news and updates on COVID-19 in the ACT, including current restrictions and statements from the Chief Health Officer, please visit the ACT COVID-19 website.

Further information on the ACT status and response (including lockdown information, face mask requirements, COVID-19 exposure locations and preparedness information) can be found on the Status and Response Website. Please continue to monitor advice or call Access Canberra on (02) 6207 7244 or the national coronavirus hotline on 1800 020 080.

Updated PPE advice 

Due to updates by the Infection Control Expert Group (ICEG) to PPE advice, ACT Health would like to advise providers that previously distributed z-cards are out of date. The new advice from ICEG is more complex and includes recommendations for the use of P2 or N95 masks in more situations. Therefore, if you are notified of a staff member, visitor or client in with COVID-19 or in quarantine for COVID-19, please call ACT Health for advice on 6207 7244.

Because of this update, providers should also ensure that they have access to P2/N95 masks, in the event that they are required or advised to use them. Providers should have more than one type of mask available, as there is some variation in how masks fit between people - some people may find one type of mask fits better than another. Information on wearing a P2 or N95 mask can be found here. Information on how to perform a fit test prior to using a P2 or N95 mask can be found here.

ACT Health has removed the previously available PPE donning poster from this website due to inconsistencies with the now updated advice. 
 

Plans

ACT Health has released its COVID-19 An ACT Operational Plan for People with Disability, which is a live document that responds to the Australian Government’s Management and Operational Plan for People with Disability. The operational plan highlights the many responses that have already been completed or are underway in partnership with people with disability and service providers, as well as those actions that have not yet commenced. The document will continue to be revised as the pandemic develops.

Information relating to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout can be found on the Vaccine roll out information webpage.

Find out more about restrictions on the Latest restriction changes FAQs page. Please continue to monitor advice, which will be updated regularly on the ACT Health web page or, call Access Canberra on (02) 6207 7244 or the national coronavirus hotline on 1800 020 080.

Additional resources that might be relevant can be found here:

If you are seeking further information on responding to a COVID-19 case in a supported accommodation site, a presentation from the ACT Public Health Emergency Coordination Centre can be found on the ACT COVID-19 website. Information in this presentation may be useful for support workers or organisations who provide in-home support. Recordings of the presentation can be found on Vimeo and YouTube.

General information

Provision of community, disability and health support services in the context of COVID-19 presents unique challenges, including the vulnerability of some people accessing services and the inclusion of volunteers in the workforce.

Essential services include:

  • personal care
  • administration of medication
  • disability support and respite care
  • medical care
  • nursing care
  • delivery of vital supplies such as food and medications
  • transport, for example to facilitate nursing or medical care, or to support daily living
  • social support provided by health and community service providers for an individual’s well-being.

For NGOs, an ACT Health Directorate presentation containing general information for NGOs can be found on the Capital Health Network YouTube channel. For people with disability, further information can be found on the CSD Support for people with disability webpage.

Where practicable, delivery of services should be contactless. The delivery of services through telehealth or contactless delivery should be considered where possible. Where it is not possible, such as provision of nursing care, disability support or personal care, organisations need to assess risks and employ appropriate strategies and plans to ensure people can receive the support they need. It is important to consider infection control procedures and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to mitigate risks.

It is also recommended that organisations include an organisational risk assessment in their business continuity planning, and that a point of care risk assessment is incorporated into delivery of care. Risk assessments and mitigation strategies, as well as business continuity planning will vary between each organisation.

Preparedness and response planning are the responsibility of each organisation. However, the advice and principles outlined in the sections below may guide and inform the development of organisational plans and procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organisations can seek further advice or raise concerns at quality@act.gov.au (CSD) or PSRContracts@act.gov.au (ACT Health).

Preparedness and business continuity

COVID-19 Business continuity planning

As the COVID-19 situation continues to unfold, the ACT Government will continue to support sector needs.

Critical organisational risks for delivery of services should be notified to quality@act.gov.au (CSD) or PSRContracts@act.gov.au (ACT Health).

Plans should be revised frequently, particularly as the ACT Response evolves and conditions change.

More planning information can be found in the Resources section below.

During COVID-19, anticipate and plan for staffing shortages:

  • Expect that many employees will be ill (with illness other than COVID-19, and potentially with COVID-19) and will need to be absent from work until well or cleared by ACT Health (if they are have confirmed COVID-19).
  • Establish working from home arrangements, if applicable
  • Carefully plan for the delivery of essential services, and return to routine working practices as restrictions ease, to minimise risk to service capacity.

Adapting services going forward

COVID-19 will be an ongoing risk into the future. The National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) has developed an online planning tool to help business develop a plan to keep their workforce, clients and the community safe as they reopen or increase activities in the weeks and months ahead.

Support workers who are at increased risk of COVID-19

People who are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should not work with people who are in quarantine or isolation for COVID-19, in residential settings where there is a COVID-19 outbreak, or with people who are unwell with respiratory symptoms.

If COVID-19 community transmission is occurring, workers who belong to a population group who are considered vulnerable should work from home, if possible. If they are unable to work from home, organisations should discuss with them how best to manage their risk at work.

Emergency management in the event of an outbreak of COVID-19 in a residential facility

A checklist has been developed to guide and support providers of shared accommodation in responding if a resident becomes unwell with COVID-19 (a confirmed case).

This checklist is to be used in conjunction with to the advice in the Guidance to Shared Accommodation and should be adapted for your specific setting.

All shared accommodation providers should prepare a plan for how they would respond if a resident, staff member or visitor to the accommodation tests positive for COVID-19. This checklist can be used by accommodation providers to prepare this plan.

Specific checklists have been developed for disability supported accommodation, alcohol and other drug respite and specialist homelessness services. If your organisation would like a checklist for one of these settings, this can be sought through the Office for Disability, ACT Health Alcohol and Other Drug Policy Unit or Housing ACT

Facilities should follow their emergency management plan or system if they have one. This may be incorporated into an organisation’s updated business continuity plan or may be a separate complementary document. Additional information can be found in the ACT Guidance for Shared Accommodation.

COVID-19 Response for Providers of Disability Supported Accommodation

All disability supported accommodation providers need to prepare a plan for how they would respond if a resident, staff member or visitor to the accommodation tests positive for COVID-19.

ACT Health have developed a COVID-19 Response Checklist for Providers of Disability Supported Accommodation.

This checklist can be used by accommodation providers to prepare this plan. This checklist is to be used in conjunction with to the advice in the Guidance to Shared Accommodation

Planning for COVID-19

Be prepared. Appoint a lead person (or team representing all internal stakeholders in larger organisations) empowered and authorised explicitly by board/executive management to lead and update pandemic response planning and communication with internal and external stakeholders.

Be informed. Keep up to date with reputable information for situational awareness. Resources can be found on the ACT COVID-19 and Australian Department of Health websites for pandemic preparedness resources.

Communicate. Keep staff and clients informed. Describe what actions the organisation is taking to protect them. This includes answering questions and explaining what staff can do to protect themselves and their clients. Provide educational resources in plain language and translated (if relevant). Translated resources are available on the ACT Health and Department of Health websites.

Some of the considerations for organisational pandemic response planning include:

1. Prevent spread of infections

  • Prominently display posters for hand and respiratory hygiene at all entrances, bathrooms and common areas, where applicable. Resources are available from the ACT Health and Australian Government Department of Health websites.
  • Ensure staff are familiar with the symptoms of COVID-19 and the criteria for testing in the ACT. Since the symptoms and testing criteria are subject to frequent updates please check the ACT website about symptoms and testing criteria for COVID-19 regularly.
  • Inform staff to stay home if they feel unwell and remain at home until their symptoms resolve.
  • Ensure sick leave policies allow staff to stay home if they have symptoms of a respiratory infection.
  • Support staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccination
  • Offer the influenza vaccination to staff, if feasible. Advice on the relative timing of administering influenza and COVID-19 vaccines is available on the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) website. The preferred minimum interval between a dose of seasonal influenza vaccine and a dose of Comirnaty (Pfizer) or AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine is 14 days.
  • The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care has developed online e-learning modules on the principles of infection control in Australian healthcare and community settings.
  • Ensure appropriate hand cleaning facilities, such as running water, soap, paper towels and waste baskets, or hand sanitiser (containing at least 60% alcohol) are readily available to staff.
    It’s important that bathrooms and food preparation areas have access to soap-based hand washing facilities - hand sanitiser is not an appropriate alternative.
  • Some staff will be undertaking home visits, and in these circumstances, they should have hand sanitiser available.  If the service provider has offices, a clinic or accommodation, they should ensure that appropriate hand cleaning facilities are available at all:
    • intake areas
    • visitor entries and exits
    • visitation rooms and common areas
    • staff-restricted areas
    • bathrooms, and
    • food preparation and dining areas.

      If supplies cannot be sourced through regular channels, alcohol-based hand sanitiser can be accessed through ACT Emergency Services Agency by emailing ESAhandsanitiser@act.gov.au
  • Maintain adequate supplies of hand soap and paper towels, alcohol-based hand sanitiser, tissues, general cleaning agents, disinfectant spray or wipes and personal protective equipment such as gloves and masks. If these stocks cannot be sourced, please follow the advice in the personal protective equipment (PPE) section below.
  • Educate staff and clients about current physical distancing measures. These are explained on the ACT Health website and in the Public Health Directions.
  • Regularly clean frequently touched surfaces in common areas (e.g. door handles and light switches), particularly communal kitchens. More information on cleaning can be found on the Safe Work Australia website. The WorkSafe cleaning checklist can assist with implementing health and hygiene measures.
  • Cutlery, dishes, utensils, and drinking glasses must not be shared and should be cleaned thoroughly with detergent and hot water, or in the dishwasher, after use.
  • If the weather allows, make sure shared spaces have good airflow by opening a window or using air conditioning.
  • Detailed instructions for cleaning if a person’s place of residence if they have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 can be found in the Guidance for Shared Accommodation.
  • If transporting a person for the purpose of providing an essential service, the following steps should be undertaken:
    • perform hand hygiene when entering and exiting the vehicle
    • keep tissues and alcohol-based hand sanitiser in the car to facilitate hand and respiratory hygiene
    • passengers should sit in the back seat, if possible, to increase physical distancing
    • clean frequently touched surfaces in the vehicle regularly, such as handles, rear view mirrors, the steering wheel, the handbrake and the gear stick
    • if the person is unwell, request that a surgical mask be worn while travelling, if possible, and
    • if the person is severely unwell, call 000.

2. Rapid detection and response

  • Instruct staff and clients to monitor for and report symptoms to the appropriate personnel at the first signs of illness. If staff or a client feels unwell, they should be isolated or go home immediately, and seek medical assessment. Please check the ACT website about symptoms and testing criteria for COVID-19 regularly.
  • Staff and clients should be instructed on who to notify immediately, if they are unwell.
  • Call ahead before appointments to ensure that the client is well or that appropriate precautions can be undertaken. Questions that should be asked are provided in the next section, Managing Risk.
  • If appropriate for the setting, provide regular welfare checks to clients to help identify the first signs of illness or any additional needs as a result of COVID-19.

3. Supporting staff

Employers have responsibilities in relation to the mental wellbeing of staff. Considering both the physical health and mental health impacts of COVID-19 for your workers will be an important component of planning for COVID-19.

For information and assistance on this go to ACT Government Healthier Work website.

A new, free, and dedicated Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service is now available to support all Australians to manage the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their mental health and wellbeing.

Visit the Mental health and wellbeing page for more information.

Managing Risk

Controlling risk in the context of COVID-19 involves firstly identifying risks of the virus spreading and then using appropriate strategies to address these risks. This process is called a point of care risk assessment and should be done before every client interaction.

Organisations should conduct training with their staff to familiarise them with the use of point of care risk assessment and develop strategies to manage anticipated risks. 

If appropriate, providers should call ahead to conduct the risk assessment before providing a service.

A point of care risk assessment will help to determine the correct procedures and if personal protective equipment (PPE) is required to protect the health of the worker and the client. The assessment should implement the following strategies (in order) to reduce risk of exposure to COVID-19:

  1. Elimination and substitution - deferral of non-essential services or substitution with contactless service provision.
  2. Administrative control measures – include measures to reduce the risk of transmission through policies, procedures, training and education. Examples could include asking basic screening questions (are you feeling well today?), signage, education and access to hand hygiene facilities.
  3. Engineering controls -finding ways to reduce physical contact. Examples include contactless delivery of vital supplies, increasing the width of a bench or table between a service provider and client so that they maintain physical distancing (>1.5m apart), or placing a perspex screen in front of the service provider.
  4. Personal protective equipment (PPE) - PPE should be used in addition to the measures above, when required, to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Before visiting a client at their residence or in another setting, the provider should ask the client or their caregiver the following questions:

  • Are you or anyone else in your household unwell?
    • Fever, sore throat, cough, and shortness of breath are common symptoms of COVID-19, but it is now recognised that some people may present with less common symptoms.  If the client reports any other new symptom the provider could check if they are consistent with COVID-19 by checking the complete list of symptoms on the ACT website.
  • Are you or anyone in your household in quarantine or isolation at home because you have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, you are suspected of having COVID-19 or you have been confirmed to have COVID-19?

Recommended steps for conducting a point of care risk assessment

Recommended steps for conducting a point of care risk assessment

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Due to updates by the Infection Control Expert Group (ICEG) to PPE advice, ACT Health would like to advise providers that previously distributed z-cards are out of date. The new ICEG advice is more complex and includes recommendations for the use of P2 or N95 masks in more situations.  Therefore, if you are notified of a staff member, visitor or client in with COVID-19 or in quarantine for COVID-19, please call ACT Health for advice on 6207 7244.

Because of this update, providers should also ensure that they have access to P2/N95 masks, in the event that they are required or advised to use them.  Providers should have more than one type of mask available, as there is some variation in how masks fit between people - some people may find one type of mask fits better than another. Information on wearing a P2 or N95 mask can be found here. Information on how to perform a fit test prior to using a P2 or N95 mask can be found here
 

Appropriate use PPE

Assessing whether PPE is required forms part of a point of care risk assessment.

Your organisation may have its own standard operating procedure for PPE; if it does, refer to this document. If you haven’t worn PPE before, make sure you receive training in how to use it and have a ‘buddy’ who is familiar with PPE and can check you putting it on and removing it. Further information for use of surgical masks and how to fit and remove surgical masks can be found on the Department of Health website.

Before putting on PPE, if it is required, review this instructional video about how to put on PPE and how to remove it. Removing PPE correctly is extremely important, as taking it off incorrectly can result in contamination and an infection risk.

Masks

All staff must wear surgical masks when providing routine services, as per the current Public Health Direction and Advice for high-risk settings and home-care providers.

If you are notified of a staff member, visitor or client in with COVID-19 or in quarantine for COVID-19, please call ACT Health for advice on 6207 7244.

Please see the Infection Control Expert Group Guidance for more information and for information regarding Donning and Doffing. 

Access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Previous global supply limitations have been largely resolved. Organisations should be able to access PPE through their regular suppliers. However, should PPE not be accessible, requests for PPE can be submitted through completion of an online request form on the ACT COVID-19 website.

Due to supply limitations, requests for PPE will be prioritised based on current advice from the Office of the Chief Health Officer, ACT Health and the demonstrated need for PPE as outlined through the online request.

Information for people with a disability, carers and Disability Support providers including NDIS providers and self-managing participants who use PPE can be found on the Community Services Directorate website.

Any questions or enquiries may be sent to the Community Services Directorate at CSDPPE@act.gov.au.

People who can access PPE through the National Medical Stockpile are encouraged to do so..

Further information on ACT Government PPE provision can be found in the ACT Government PPE (Prioritisation and Distribution) Policy and the associated attachments:

Management and care of people who are in isolation or quarantine at home

Cancellation of non-essential services

Non-essential services should be cancelled or deferred for individuals:

  • who are in isolation awaiting a COVID-19 test result;
  • who are in quarantine;
  • who are in isolation because they are a confirmed COVID-19 case; and/or
  • have been directed to be in quarantine by ACT Health.

Any service should only be deferred when an individual fits within the criteria above.

Providers should continue to deliver essential services to people in quarantine or isolation, employing the necessary precautions.

If a client is not in quarantine, but has been in an area of geographical risk or an identified exposure location, providers should continue providing all services.  Providers should use standard precautions.  

Essential services are outlined in the General information section above. If it is appropriate, arrange for contactless delivery of vital supplies, such as medical supplies or food. For example, packages or supplies could be left at the front door. If contact is required, for example when providing nursing support, please consult the PPE section above.

If a client in quarantine or isolation becomes unwell, their regular health care provider (GP) should be alerted.

If the client has serious symptoms, call triple zero (000) and notify the operator that the client id in quarantine or isolation.

The ACT Government is aware that isolation can have a significant impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing. The Ways you can support your own mental health and wellbeing webpage includes guidance that has been developed to provide information and resources to people in isolation.

Important Phone Numbers

  • National Coronavirus Helpline 1800 020 080
  • Access Canberra COVID-19 helpline (02) 6207 7244
  • Communicable Disease Control (CDC) Unit of the ACT Health Protection Service on (02) 5124 9213 during business hours.
  • Lifeline Canberra 131114

Social Media

ACT Resources

National Resources

International Resources

Page last updated on: 31 Aug 2021