News Articles and analysis

COVID-19 and the community sector

This page contains general advice and links to official and reputable resources. VCOSS does not provide health or legal advice. For the latest health guidance please visit the Victorian Government COVID-19 websiteIf you suspect you have COVID-19, call the Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398. 

 

Offers of assistance for public housing tenants   

Victorians are rallying to support the residents of Melbourne’s ‘locked down’ public housing estates.

 

I want to help out.

The Department of Health and Human Services is coordinating offers of assistance from organisations, community groups and individuals. Please detail how you can help in an email (you can use the button below), and remember to include your most up-to-date contact details. VCOSS is not involved in this process.

 OFFER TO HELP

I want to donate.

Frontline service agencies have asked that you don’t donate goods, unless specifically asked. The absolute best way for you to assist is by making a financial donation. There are a range of community organisations in the Flemington and North Melbourne areas that accept financial donations. These include:

 

Other organisations that have been supporting people throughout the COVID-19 pandemic that accept financial donations include:

 


COVID-19 Community Sector Digital Forum series

VCOSS and the Department of Health and Human services run 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.

You can watch past forums below.

 

July 2 Digital Forum

 


June 4 Digital Forum

 


 

April 29 Digital Forum

 


March 13 Digital Forum

05:00 Minister Luke Donnellan the government’s response to the pandemic.
11:28 DHHS Dep. Sec. Argiri Alisandratos implications for the community sector.
36:26 Chief Health Officer Dr Brett Sutton prevention, responding to infections, etc.
52.51  DHHS Employee Relations Jesse Maddison workplace/IR issues.
57.30 Panel discussions / questions from the floor.


Useful resources


Government announcements

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.

Changes include:

  • 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.

 

Economic assistance

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

JobKeeper
  • 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
Insurance
  • 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.
Governance guidance
  • 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

PPE requests
  • 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.
Working safe
Posters

 

Diverse language or fully accessible resources.

 

COVID-19 ISSUES ALERTS

VCOSS has launched a new series of briefing papers to help inform public discussion and guide speedy policy development in relation to issues arising from COVID-19.

  1. Caring for Victoria’s carers in the Covid crisis. May 6th
  2. Loneliness in the time of Covid. May 5th
  3. Emergency relief in the Coronavirus crisis. April 30th
  4. Smartphone tracing is happening. So let’s do it right. April 26th
  5. Confronting family violence during lockdownApril 16th
  6. Energy hardship with everybody at homeApril 15th
  7. Household lockdown for diverse householdsApril 13th
  8. Don’t sideline people with disability in the pandemic response. April 8th
  9. Six things to think about as we (rightly) ban evictions March 31st
  10. Eight things to consider as we shut schools.  March 22nd

 

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