COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. This means that the virus has spread all over the world, including Australia. Carers are in a particularly vulnerable situation as they and the people they care for are generally more susceptible to infection and the logistics of day to day life are already hard. In recognition of this, as part of its recent stimulus package, from 31 March 2020 carers who are receiving the Carer Payment will receive a one- off payment of $750, as will those receiving the Disability Support Pension and the Age Pension.
The Australian Government’s Department of Health is the official website for the federal response.
The Australian Government has also launched an official app: Coronavirus Australia which is available through Apple or Google Apps for Android Phones:
State and Territory Governments also have their own dedicated local resources:
If you are worried you may have come into contact with COVID-19 please call the Corona Virus Hotline on 1800 020 080 which is open 24 hours 7 days a week.
Arrange a review treatment plan with your GP or specialist – if you feel unsafe or unsure about sitting in the doctor's surgery, ask if you can have a phone appointment. The Australian Government has announced that telehealth consultations for people who are:
will be bulk billed if your doctor is willing to engage through telehealth and accepts bulk billing. This means you can continue treatment from doctors, nurses and mental health practitioners from home.
The Carer Gateway has an Emergency Care Plan Document that can help ensure that the person you care for is looked after if you are unable to care.
The Emergency Plan includes
If you and the person you care for have a My Health Record make sure it is up-to-date, including the addition of any Advance Care Plan and Power of Attorney.
The outbreak of any virus in an aged care home can cause significant problems.
COVID-19 is a particular health risk for older people. The Australian Government has applied new restrictions to protect them.
Do not visit aged care facilities if you have:
From 1 May you must have had your influenza vaccination to visit an aged care facility. Aged care homes are also requesting that people over the age of 65 have their pneumococcal vaccination
Aged care facilities homes are making sure visits are kept short
No school groups of any size are allowed to visit residential aged care facilities.
No children aged under 16 years are permitted to visit residential aged care facilities except in special circumstances.
If you cannot visit your family and friends in a residential aged care facility, it’s important to keep in touch. Make phone or video calls, send postcards, photos or artwork or film short videos to share.
Some aged care homes have taken further steps and are banning visitors altogether but have committed to providing video-conferencing opportunities. You should contact residential facilities to establish what conditions they have put in place for visitors before you visit.
The number of face-to-face meetings with NDIS participants is being reduced in line with the Australian Government’s advice in the coronavirus (COVID-19) national health response plan. However, face-to-face services are still available. If the Department of Health and Ageing advice is to stop face-to-face meetings we will let you know. The Agency is able to deliver both scheduled plan reviews and first plan meetings in other ways like phone, video or email.
Participants, families and carers can request alternatives to face-to-face meetings, if participants are concerned about their exposure to respiratory illness.
Both scheduled plan reviews and first plan meetings can be completed over the phone, if the participant:
Local Area Coordinators and Early Childhood Partners may be changing their office operations due to coronavirus (COVID-19) management plans. Find a list of affected offices here.
If you have questions or require advice, please contact the NDIS Contact Centre on 1800 800 110.
Carers Australia understands the problems many carers are experiencing during this pandemic, including with their income, financial support and looking after the person they care for. We acknowledge that Commonwealth and state and territory governments have developed new supports for many Australians in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Income Support Payments
The Government is providing two lump sum payments of $750 to a number of social security payment recipients.
We are aware that many carers on the Carer Payment are considering applying for one of the other payments they are likely to be eligible for which attract supplement. We would urge caution in doing this. Many of these payments do not attract the same allowances attached to the Carer Payment. Going back onto the Carer Payment after the supplement expires may prove complex and time consuming. You should also be aware that people on a Disability Support Pension (DSP) who switch to another payment may be particularly at risk of not meeting the eligibility requirements at a later date. The eligibility requirements for the Disability Support Pension have changed in recent years and those who have been on the DSP for some time may find that they are no longer eligible.
Jobseeker Mutual Obligation Requirements:
Mutual Obligation Requirements are all the job seeking activities someone is required to perform in order to keep receiving the Jobseeker Payment (Newstart), Youth Allowance (other), Parenting Payment Single (when their youngest child turns six) and Special Benefit (Nominated Visa Holders). They can be quite onerous.
The Government has suspended mutual obligation requirements for the Jobseeker Payment, Youth Allowance as a job seeker and Parenting Payment until 31 March 2020, after which they will consider an extension of these exemptions. It has also removed the liquid assets waiting period from 25 March 2020 due to coronavirus.
For more information on what you can do to get a personal exemption from meeting the mutual obligation requirements beyond the general exemption, if you or the person you are caring for are impacted by the various social isolation requirements, click here.
Why aren’t carers eligible for the Coronavirus Supplement?
Carers Australia has been receiving many representations from carers on the Carer Payment who are concerned that the fortnightly Coronavirus Supplement has not been extended to carers receiving the Carer Payment or to recipients of Disability Support Pension and Age Pension.
Carers Australia is advocating for the Government to extend the Coronavirus Supplement to those on the Carer Payment
The Australian Government is allowing individuals affected by the coronavirus to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21. Individuals will not need to pay tax on amounts released and the money they withdraw will not affect Centrelink or Veterans’ Affairs payments.
The Government is temporarily reducing superannuation minimum drawdown requirements for account-based pensions and similar products by 50 per cent for 2019-20 and 2020-21. This measure will benefit retirees holding these products by reducing the need to sell investment assets to fund minimum drawdown requirements.
Carers Australia recommends that you speak to your Superannuation Fund or a financial advisor if you need further information regarding the impact of these drawdowns on your superannuation.
For more information on the Stimulus Package click here.
Jobkeeper wage subsidies
On 30 March the Government announced a six-month job subsidy scheme. It is available to businesses with less than a billion dollars turnover whose turnover will be reduced by more than 30 per cent relative to a comparable period a year ago (of at least a month), and to businesses with more than a billion dollars turnover whose turnover has reduced by 50 per cent or more over the same period.
It is intended to reduce job shedding by businesses now under threat by ensuring that each eligible employee receives at least $1,500 per fortnight (before tax). Eligible employees include full-time, part time and casual workers who were in employment at 1 March 2020.
Employers receiving the Jobkeeper Payment must notify all eligible employees.
For further information and details of eligibility click here.
The Australian Energy Regular has instructed that all energy companies and networks must:
It’s always good to ask for help if you need it. Talk to neighbours, family and friends about help with groceries or just simply ask them to keep in touch via the phone or email. Chat services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger can also help you feel more connected. If you are unfamiliar with these Apps or computers or texting, the eSafety Commissioner has easy to use tutorials.
If you aren’t familiar with the Carer Gateway, there are specific resources to help you with stress and anxiety. Carers can join chat forums on the Carers Australia website or the Young Carers Network website. If you need someone to talk to you can ring the Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737; they can refer you to carer specific supports. Alternatively, if your mental health is suffering, you can ring Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Help Line on 1800 55 1800. Young adults between the ages of 12-25 can visit Headspace for youth targeted mental health resources.
Limit screen time – it’s easy to feel worried and that you have to stay connected to the news for updates, but social media and the internet are not reliable and can give you the wrong information. The best source of information is from the Australian Government and your state or territory government, as well as reputable media sources such as the ABC or SBS. A good place for primary school children to learn about Coronavirus in a safe, age appropriate space is Behind The News.
Coles has dedicated shopping times for vulnerable members of our communities, this includes carers who have a state or territory issued Companion Card, and have basic essentials stored behind the front counter for purchase.
Coles has advised shoppers that on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Coles Community Hours will be for elderly customers and others in need of assistance who simply need to present a government-issued identification card including:
Store managers will use sensible discretion and compassion to ensure vulnerable customers who require access are able to complete their shopping during Community Hour.
Please see the Coles media release.
Coles has announced a dedicate online service for those vulnerable customers who have the approved identification listed above:
'Coles Online Priority Service (COPS) will be launching soon for customers who are unable to easily access a Coles Supermarket. This service will allow these customers to purchase their essential items online and have them delivered to their home.'
Please click here for more information on how to register.
Woolworths has a dedicated community hour for people with a disability, their carers and seniors on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Please see the their media release here.
They have also reduced trading hours at 41 stores to 11am - 6pm, so that they can be used as Priority Home Delivery Hubs, enabling staff to pick online orders for Priority Assictance deliveries to the elderly, people with a disability, those with compromised immune systems or people in isolation. You can apply to receive Priority Assistance by completing the form here.
Click here to check store opening hours.
Woolworths has also partnered with Meals on Wheels in NSW to deliver toilet paper.
It’s also a good idea to contact your local smaller supermarket, butcher, fruit and vegetable store and chemist to see if they will home deliver. Many local businesses are offering delivery during the pandemic. Some local restaurants and cafes are offering take home meals and take away coffees and are providing their customers with the methods they are using to keep staff and customers safe.
The Queensland Government has also advised that it will temporarily halt closing time restrictions so supermarkets and chemists can stay open longer.
The Australian Government continues to update its social distancing measures. Australian’s are now required to have four square metres of distance between themselves and other members of the community in public spaces.
Gatherings, excluding the people you live with, can be no more than two people. This does not include people you live with.
It is strongly recommended that people over 70, those over 60 with a chronic illness and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders observe social isolation as far as possible. This does not mean that you can’t go for a walk or that you dispense of the services of a needed care worker. But ensure that you and your care worker observe the hygiene and, as far as possible, the personal distance recommendation identified under the heading “Keeping yourself and, the person you care for well” above.
Australians are asked to reduce their visits to the shops, in order to reduce contact.
From midnight on Wednesday 25 March 2020, these activities and businesses will no longer be allowed to continue:
For more information click here.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has advised through the Scam Watch website that there are dozens of reports of scam activity relating to COVID-19. “We’ve had a wide variety of scams reported to us, including fake online stores selling products claiming to be a vaccine or cure for coronavirus, and stores selling products such as face masks and not providing the goods.”
There is no known vaccine or cure for coronavirus and a vaccine isn’t expected to be available for 18 months. Do not buy any products that claim to prevent or cure you of COVID-19.
Scammers are impersonating official organisations such as the World Health Organization and the Department of Health or legitimate businesses such as travel agents and telecommunications companies.
If you think you have been scammed, contact your bank or financial institution immediately. You should also contact Scamwatch through their website www.scamwatch.gov.au.
More information on coronavirus scams is available on the Scamwatch website including information on where to get help.
This document will be regularly updated .