There are crucial exemptions to mask wearing rules for Victorians who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Watch the below video for more information. Know your rights. Know what’s allowed.
Masks and the community sector
DHHS has issued new advice for the use of PPE by frontline community services workers. In addition to the existing requirement for all staff to wear surgical masks, staff must now wear eye protection when dealing directly with clients.
In addition, a P2 or N95 respirator/mask is required where “providing care in an uncontrolled environment where there are high numbers of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases”.
Mental health boost
A $60 million support package has been announced to bolster clinical and community mental health services across Victoria. More than 140 new mental health beds will also be opened in “at-risk areas of Melbourne” and some mental health clinics will now operate seven days a week.
Healthcare workers will be provided with extra counselling, if they need it.
Free kinder extended
The Victorian Government has announced an extension of sessional kinder support, saying “all kinder in Victoria will be free for Term 3”.
About $1.6 million in grants will also be made available so kinders can do more to support kids who are learning from home.
New restrictions announced
Victoria has imposed wide-ranging new restrictions on travel, work, exercise, social engagement and shopping. A night curfew is also now in place across Melbourne. To learn more, we encourage you to read from official sources:
- The official DHSS restrictions update
- Premier Andrews’ media release about Melbourne restrictions
- Premier Andrews’ media release about regional Victorian restrictions
COVID-19 Community Sector Digital Forum series
VCOSS and the DHHS are running a monthly discussion forum to guide community organisations through the COVID-19 pandemic.
These events are held on the first Thursday of each month, and streamed live and free through vcoss.org.au/live.
The next forum will take place at 1pm on Thursday September 3rd.
It will canvas the next steps in the community fight against COVID-19, including:
- Current public health advice and
- Service delivery in a ‘COVID normal’ environment.
August 6 Digital Forum
COVID-19 Plan for the Community Sector
The Victorian Government has updated the official COVID-19 plan for Victorian Community Services Sector. This document is designed to enable the ongoing provision of vital services to vulnerable and disadvantaged Victorians.
- Clarification of the difference between pandemic response stages and physical distancing stages, and
- A new DHHS community sector issue resolution process.
Hotels for Heroes: Victorian Government emergency accommodation
Hotels for Heroes provides emergency accommodation to frontline workers who need to self-isolate. This program has now been extended to cover staff working in:
- Supported accommodation services for people with a disability,
- Public sector residential aged care,
- Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Organisations, and
- Other workers in primary care settings.
Working for Victoria
Community sector organisations can now register for the Victorian Government’s Working for Victoria job creation program. This scheme helps workers who have lost jobs as a consequence of COVID-19, and other Victorians seeking work, to find new opportunities in critical roles supporting the community. The government will pay each worker’s salary plus on-costs for six months. Some large organisations have already been directly invited to submit proposals, but others can do so until mid-May.
HSHPIC Meeting Summaries
The Human Services and Health Partnership Implementation Committee (HSHPIC) COVID-19 Response Group is meeting fortnightly. An informal summary will be published following each meeting. You can learn more about HSHPIC here.
Resources for individuals
Emergency relief for people in isolation.
- Victorians in mandatory self-isolation running short on food and unable to have any dropped-off by friends are eligible for a “food and personal care package”, with a two-weeks supply of items like long-life milk, pasta, canned fruit, cereal and sugar, as well as some personal care items. People wishing to request a pack should call the Coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398.
Claiming Centrelink during COVID-19
Navigating Centrelink can be confusing at the best of times. Economic Justice Australia has produced a fact sheet with specific information on how to claim a Centrelink payment during COVID-19. See it here.
Key features of government economic assistance include:
- JobKeeper payments of up to $1,500 per fortnight for each eligible employee are available.
- Coronavirus supplement of $550 per fortnight, to be paid to Newstart, Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit recipients.
- Direct cash payments of $750 to social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders. The first payment will be made from 31 March 2020 and the second payment will be made from 13 July 2020.
- Early access to superannuation, with individuals affected by the Coronavirus able to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21. VCOSS comment: Superannuation exists so people can live poverty-free in old age. Please use extreme caution withdrawing any money. Seek professional legal and financial advice before you do anything.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) and your rights
- Consumer Affairs Victoria has established a COVID-19 page providing information about a range of areas regulated by CAV including: housing, evictions, products and services, event cancellations and refunds.
- The Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria handle most complaints about energy and water issues, providing Victorian customers with free, accessible, informal and fast dispute resolution. Further information is available here.
- JusticeConnect’s Not-for-profit Law team is delivering tailored legal support for community organisations and not-for-profits that are grappling with complex legal issues arising from measures to contain COVID-19. These may include ensuring client safety, securing data with increasingly remote workforces, and managing cancelled public events.
- A range of legal problems are emerging following the rollout of measures such as quarantining people to limit the spread of the virus. Victoria Legal Aid can provide help over the phone 1300 792 387 (please note that there may have longer wait times). Advice can also be provided through a live webchat service here.
Your mental health and safety
- Beyond Blue has produced a guide to mental wellbeing during the Coronavirus outbreak. The Beyond Blue Support Service offers short term counselling and referrals by phone and webchat on 1300 22 4636.
- Lifeline is available 24 hours/7 days on 13 11 14, by text: 0477 13 11 14 (6pm – midnight AEDT, 7 nights) and online chat (7pm – midnight, 7 nights)
- 1800RESPECT is operating during COVID-19 and a list of safety apps for mobile phones can be found at their website.
- The safe steps 24/7 family violence crisis response phone line will continue to operate as usual 1800 015 188.
- DVRCV and DVVic are collating information, resources and responses to frequently asked questions on COVID-19 and family violence at the Lookout website.
- inTouch (Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence) has launched a COVID-19 information hub for women from migrant and refugee communities experiencing family violence, and for family violence service providers and practitioners.
Resources for employers
- Charities registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), will be eligible for the Job Keeper subsidy if they estimate their turnover has fallen or will likely fall by 15 per cent or more. Charities can now elect to exclude government revenue from the turnover test. Information about the JobKeeper scheme is available here. The COSS Network held a webinar on JobKeeper for charities and not-for-profits in early May. Slides from the webinar are available here.
Guidance on IR
- DHHS Guidance Note on COVID-19 and employment-related matters for the Community Services Sector.
- FairWork advice on Coronavirus and Australian workplace laws.
- The Victorian Managed Insurance Authority has released a factsheet with general guidance about how COVID-19 might affect different community sector insurance products. You’ll find a direct download link near the bottom of this page.
Pandemic policy template
- The Australian Institute of Community Directors has produced a free Epidemic/Pandemic Policy template that you can download and tailor to your organisation. Access it here.
- The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) has released fresh guidance of what organisations should do if they’re struggling to hold regular board meetings of officially complete their Annual Information Statement. More details here.
Resources for workplaces
- DHHS has established a streamlined process to manage the distribution of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for members of the community sector. Demand for PPE is very high at the moment, and the government is urging community organisations to source PPE independently before making a request. DHHS has also developed guidelines and a risk assessment checklist for workers in how to use PPE properly for face-to-face interactions with clients.
- WorkSafe’s guide to exposure to coronavirus in workplaces.
- The Federal Government is offering workers across the health, aged care, disability and childcare sectors access to a free online training module on infection control. This training module takes about 30 minutes to complete and covers the fundamentals of infection prevention and control (IPC) for COVID-19.
- Printable poster: Wash your hands regularly poster
- Printable poster: Cover your cough and sneeze poster
Diverse language or fully accessible resources.
- Information about Coronavirus translated into multiple languages by Ethnolink.
- Easy English resources on CoronaVirus, produced by the NDIA.
- The Council for Intellectual Disability has produced three easy read documents to assist people with intellectual disability during COVID-19:
- Health Translations is an online library which enables health practitioners and those working with culturally and linguistically diverse communities to easily find free translated health information.
- UNICEF Australia has released ‘Eight tips to help comfort and protect children.’
- Federal Government video and poster campaign on Coronavirus.
Submit a COVID-19 question.