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Department of Human Services

NGO coronavirus support

Coronavirus online forums

Coronavirus online forums

Coronavirus online forums

Forum on 26 March 2020

The Premier, Steven Marshall, and Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink hosted a forum for the sector. Key representatives from SA Health and SA Housing Authority were present.

You can watch a video of the forum below.

If you have any questions or issues you would like to see addressed, please email us.


Forum on 17 March 2020

More than 300 of you tuned in to hear from SA Health, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Child Protection.

View the forum again (1 hour 35 mins) or download a transcript

Pandemic readiness planning – toolkit and information package

Pandemic readiness planning – toolkit and information package

DHS has developed a COVID-19 Readiness planning toolkit for the non-government sector to support organisations through this period.

Covid-19 Readiness Planning Toolkit for NGOs (PPTX 928.1 KB)

If you have suggestions for additional content or resources, please email us.

Please find below additional information to that focuses on:

  • Disability
  • Community and Family Services, and
  • Domestic Violence services

but is relevant across the sector.

Please note that the information provided here will be relevant in different ways to each NGO, and that some aspects may vary depending upon the size, complexity and risk profile of your organisation.

1. Business Resilience for NGOs

Resilience is the adaptive capability of an organisation to withstand and recover from loss, and to bounce back in the face of stress, complexity, chaos and ever-changing environments and situations (Source: ISO 22316 Societal Security – Guidelines for organisational resilience).

It requires the identification and active management of potential exposures across all areas of your organisation’s operations. It will also require an increased capacity to respond effectively to unfamiliar or unplanned incidents. We recommend that you establish an incident management committee with clear roles, accountabilities and objectives to manage your pandemic planning and response.

To assist in building this resilience, we recommend a three-stage approach:

  1. Identify the risks posed to your organisation by the pandemic and work consistently to manage them in accordance with your current capability and capacity
  2. Monitor your environment and respond promptly to any changes, and
  3. Be ready to respond effectively to incidents, emerging risks and to handle crises effectively.

In the interim, we have attached to this communication  a checklist of measures for your organisation to consider in limiting the risk of contagion and building resilience in your NGO — Attachment 1

2. Pandemic Planning

2.1 Scenario planning

The most likely scenarios arising from the current pandemic are listed below.  Your pandemic plan should consider each of these individually and in combination:

  • Loss of workforce (including volunteers)
  • Loss of premises (either from closure of facilities that you use to provide services or your offices)
  • Loss of suppliers, and
  • Services becoming too risky to provide in their current form (under pandemic conditions).

More detail on how to manage these four scenarios will be communicated through a toolkit to be released by the DHS in future communications.

2.2 Confirm critical services and operations

During a pandemic, it is critical that your organisation understands the risks posed by the pandemic and explicitly identify the highest priority critical services and operations to ensure they receive appropriate resources over short (less than, or equal to, 30 days) medium (30 to 120 days) and longer term (over 120 days).

For sound resourcing prioritisation, people, processes and technology are to be directed at the most critical services. Processes to consider in addition to the critical services to be delivered include:

  • Responding to incoming communications (telephone, email, social media, and so on)
  • The infrastructure supporting critical services
  • Key third party suppliers supporting critical services
  • Payments to staff, clients and suppliers
  • Accounting / finance to monitor financial position (where appropriate).

2.3 Practical measures to limit infection

While there is much that remains unclear about COVID-19, organisations should take immediate, affirmative steps to identify, assess and (as far as reasonably practicable) control risks based on current public health advice.

At a minimum, your organisation should:

  • Suspend all travel overseas and interstate
  • Avoid placing employees and other personnel (including volunteers) at risk of exposure, by directing and ensuring that self-isolation procedures take place in accordance with Australian Government advice
  • Implement practical measures to enhance personal and workplace hygiene and safety, such as:
    • Good ventilation
    • Disinfecting commonly-used equipment through upscaling your commitment to a clean environment including regularly disinfecting and sanitising all surfaces, doors and IT equipment in your premises
    • Avoid the sharing of equipment, and providing hand sanitiser and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when appropriate
    • Communicating relevant guidelines to employees and volunteers
    • Directing employees and volunteers experiencing relevant symptoms to not attend the workplace or interact with clients, customers or other stakeholders in connection with work
    • Cancel large-scale gatherings, such as events or conferences where there is an increased risk of exposure.

More information

If you are in receipt of a grant from DHS, this will continue to be paid. If you have any concerns about any terms or conditions linked to the grant please contact us.

In addition, if you have any queries about how we can best support your organisation, or you require further information, you are encouraged to contact the COVID-19 response team. Email

We have also included other useful contact information in Attachment 2.

Attachment 1: Resilience Measures

1.    Do Now

The following list provides a guide for the types of measures your NGO should immediately consider:



Health and welfare

Employee health and welfare measures

  • Conduct regular check ins with your staff to support their wellness and identify any concerns.
  • Understand that the uncertainty and anxiety caused by the epidemic may trigger mental health issues and direct staff to your Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) where possible.
  • Practice social distancing at work.
  • Facilitate improved hygiene across all work environments.
  • Review of all travel and only essential local travel permitted (and subject to approval).
  • Monitor changing laws and regulations (e.g. travel restrictions) affecting your employees.

Volunteer health and welfare measures

In addition to the measures listed above:

  • Determine which (if any) services depend on volunteers to continue being delivered and decide whether they should continue.
  • All high-risk (for example, elderly) volunteers are protected.

Client / customer health and welfare measures

  • Implement measures to protect customers from exposure and / or infection in accordance with government guidelines.
  • Recognise that increased levels of anxiety and uncertainty are anticipated in the disability sector, and the need for clear communication to vulnerable members of the community.

Service provision

Prioritisation of resources

  • Evaluate specific pandemic impact scenarios for your organisation.
  • Identify potential risks and assess impact.

Financial considerations

Cash flow

  • For non-grant funded NGOs, conduct cashflow forecasting and sensitivity analysis to address risk to increased costs / loss of income.



Decision planning and delegations of authority

  • Establish an incident management committee with clear roles, accountabilities and objectives to manage your Pandemic planning and response

Technology options

  • Verify that technology infrastructure can support remote working for both corporate functions and service delivery.

2. Do Next

The following list provides a guide for the types of measures your organisation should next consider:



Health and welfare

Employee health and welfare measures

  • Review and understand the feasibility and available capability and capacity to implement alternative working measures such as working remotely.
  • Review existing policies and procedures to facilitate safe, secure and flexible work practices across the organisation and, if required, vary them in response to the potential requirements of remote working or other impacts or your pandemic plan.

Volunteer health and welfare measures

  • Consider redeployment of low-risk volunteers to other critical services and / roles.

Client / customer health and welfare measures

  • Determine whether face-to-face services will continue and, if so, in what capacity.
  • Consider the need for increased services, for example, domestic violence providers may consider it necessary to conduct additional check-ins to ensure the safety and welfare of their clients.
  • Understand the risks around having clients access the broader health system as opposed to self-isolation (particularly in the disability sector).

Service provision

Prioritisation of resources

  • Assess critical versus non-critical services.
  • Ensure essential functions continue to be provided (where possible).
  • Review key suppliers service availability and resilience.

Information and data security

  • Review the impact of potential changes to working practices on the security of corporate and client data and records.

Financial considerations

Cash flow

  • Identify potential triggers for urgent action (e.g. liquidity issues).

Alternative processing arrangements for client transactions

  • Consideration of alternate procedures for processing certain physical transactions, where required (e.g. the use of cash).



Legislative and regulatory compliance

  • Understand the potential impacts of any changes made to your staffing / working practices on the legislative and regulatory requirements for your organisation.
  • Identify areas where changes to arrangements will make it difficult for you to comply and raise that with the appropriate regulatory body proactively.

Corporate knowledge

  • Practice sound knowledge management:
    • identify, collect, maintain and protect Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
    • ensure knowledge and skills are distributed across geographically dispersed offices or branches.

Contractual arrangements

  • Review funding agreements / arrangements to determine if flexibility exists.
  • Consider that some contractual agreements may require amendments and / or authorisations outside of usual contractual terms and begin to put in place measures to accommodate these.
  • For disability providers:
    • Understand how and where there may be flexibility in NDIS plans to allow for altered services and service delivery.
    • Understand any directives or advice from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) regarding plan reviews or renewals.
    • Understand your obligations under your terms of registration and the Code of Conduct, including to provide continuity of services.
    • Understand your obligation to inform the Quality and Safeguards Commission in relation to changes in your capacity to provide services as well as reportable incidents.

Decision planning and delegations of authority

  • Establish an agreed process for decision making and agree critical milestones.
  • Map critical stakeholders and agree communication strategies for them.
  • Consider the need to expand delegations for various types of authority (where required).
  • Consider how staff will be paid under various scenarios (i.e. where payroll functions cannot be performed remotely).


  • Understand the scope and any potential limitations in insurance coverage.



  • Encourage your employees and customers to stay informed. Identify the key “sources of truth” to be relied upon for information required to support your organisation.
  • Decide on the frequency and type of information flow to staff, customers and other stakeholders.
  • Consider access to information by vulnerable groups, particularly the disability community or people who may not have access to certain technologies.
  • Communicate the policies and conditions that will prevail if employees must stay home due to illness or to care for sick family members.

3. Once implemented, do the following

The following list provides a guide for the types of resilience monitoring your organisation should consider once the immediate, key actions have been implemented:



Health and welfare

Employee health and welfare measures

  • Update, implement and monitor adherence to new policies and procedures (such as the new Home Visiting Policy) if applicable.
  • Keep employees regularly informed about the latest updates and guidance whilst encouraging calm and a recognition that operations are likely to continue as long as government guidance is followed.

Volunteer health and welfare measures

  • Ensure that all volunteers receive appropriate and regular communication and ongoing training (if required).

Client / customer health and welfare measures

  • Ensure that all clients receive appropriate and regular communication

Service provision

Prioritisation of resources

  • Explore opportunities for cross-skilling and upskilling employees to perform critical roles in the event of illness.

Information and data security

  • Ensure security of data and records that may be distributed over more locations as a result of a workforce working remotely.

Financial considerations

Cash flow

  • Monitor cash flow carefully and review trigger points regularly.



Legislative and regulatory compliance

  • Maintain communications with relevant regulatory authorities.

Corporate knowledge

  • Practice sound knowledge management:
    • consider succession planning and ensure effective data gathering and sharing processes are in place
    • manage critical information through a vital records analysis.

Contractual arrangements

  • Monitor ongoing compliance with confirmed requirements.

Policies and procedures

  • Adapt policies and procedures as required and ensure they remain up-to-date, accurate, relevant and accessible.

Decision planning and delegations of authority

  • Consider explicit staff succession planning and upskilling / training for key roles while maintaining compliance with quality and regulatory requirements.


  • Ensure compliance with any disclosure requirements.



  • Maintain regular and effective communication with workforce, customers and other stakeholders.

Attachment 2: Contact Information

DHS contacts:

COVID Response Team


Phone 8415 4174

Phone Matt Clemow on 0417 887 824

Useful phone numbers:

The Australian Government Coronavirus Health Information Line, phone 1800 020 080

Lifeline, phone 13 11 14

Beyond Blue, phone 1300 22 4636

Additional Resources:

Commonwealth Department of Health - Coronavirus

Office of the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment - Mentally healthy workplaces

Beyond Blue - National help lines and websites

FAQs for NGOs

FAQs for NGOs

We are doing our best to provide accurate and timely information but please note all answers are subject to change given the extraordinary circumstances.

Further questions can be emailed to:


Q: How will the Department support organisations which may be significantly disadvantaged due to loss of / impact on service delivery?

A: There are essential services that will need to continue and the state government will support these.

There are also services that will be considered non-essential at the peak of the risk and both state and federal governments are regularly reviewing economic support packages for affected businesses.

DHS is developing a Pandemic Readiness Planning “toolkit” for service providers and to help with decision making and business continuity planning.

If organisations have contract or grant funding for activities that are affected by COVID-19, please speak with your DHS contact about flexible arrangements.

Q: Will contract KPIs be adjusted?

A: Service delivery to our clients is our absolute priority. If you have concerns about your ability to deliver on your contract, please contact your contract manager to discuss.

Q: Will there be an extension of grant funded projects/programs which have not been able to meet end of financial year funding deadlines because of COVID-19?

A: DHS acknowledges the changing environment and will be flexible. Please speak with your grants contact about options.

Q: What exactly is the message about working from home – is this always desirable if possible, at this time?

A: Service providers know their own business best but, in the current environment, DHS is encouraging people to work from home wherever possible.

In saying that, it is important to acknowledge that working from home will not always be possible due to the front line and essential nature of our work. We will continue to take advice from the state and national health authorities about how to remain safe while providing critical personal care.

We do encourage you to plan for a potential decrease in staff availability due to illness, carer duties, isolation requirements or vulnerabilities that prevent staff from fulfilling their normal duties.

Q: Home visiting – when and if will this cease?

A: We are developing criteria to guide the delivery of services during this period, which will enable us to respond to developments as we need to over time.

These criteria will be shared with the sector shortly.

Q: NDIS services are now businesses and ceasing service provision has a profound impact on organisational income. When should we consider ceasing provision of non-urgent service provision e.g. therapy provision?

A: The NDIA has released key information for NDIS clients and providers: NDIS and disaster response

DHS will continue to work with the NDIA, providers and the NDS to ensure providers receive the best possible advice.


Q: Much of the work carried out in regional centres is in people’s homes and many clients do not have phones – will contingencies be put in place so that vulnerable people can still access services?

A: DHS encourages service providers to reach out to clients in such a position and provide them with hard copy resources if required.

Q: What happens if a child or young person receiving services contracts coronavirus?

A: If a child receiving services contracts coronavirus, they will be treated according to SA Health guidelines. Service providers are asked to inform DHS of any staff or clients that contract coronavirus through the dedicated email contact:

Q: What is the process for the dissemination of information about families that may be undergoing self-isolation/testing for our programs between NGOS and DHS?

A: Service providers are asked to inform DHS of any staff or clients that contract coronavirus through the dedicated email contact:

DHS will keep the sector updated in the event of any confirmed cases in the sector.

Q: Will we require a risk assessment to be conducted prior to any current and ongoing respite or planned placements?

A: DHS will follow SA Health’s guidelines – we will update this question as information becomes available.

Q: I am interested in community volunteer gatherings such as meetings and running community functions and running drama classes for young people.

A: There are now strict restrictions on non-essential gatherings. See the Commonwealth Department of Health website for more information:

Q: Can you provide advice about managing the social inclusion of clients who have carers with them?

A: Please refer to the latest and Commonwealth Government SA Health advice about social distancing. Lifeline and Beyond Blue have produced fact sheets providing advice on how to stay connected during this period.

Service Delivery

Q: Are domestic and family violence services considered essential if other services get shut down?

A: Yes, these are essential services that will continue to be delivered by DHS and NGO service providers.

In the current circumstances, that the way in which services are delivered will be reconsidered. Greater use of telephone and video conferencing will be utilised to ensure safety and protection of all parties.

Q: If several residential care workers are quarantined, can workers from other programs step in to assist even if they do not have mandatory qualifications?

A: DHS acknowledges that some workforce flexibility will be required during this period, however service providers still need to ensure minimum safety standards are being met.

We will come back with more detail on this question.

Q: How and who do we notify if a care worker contracts coronavirus and has been in contact with children and/or young people, other workers or any site or property (including motor vehicles)?

A: In line with advice from SA Health, anyone being tested for coronavirus should be directed away from the workplace until the results of their test is confirmed.

If coronavirus is confirmed, the employee will need to work with SA Health regarding contact tracing and further isolation requirements.

The service provider is asked to immediately advise DHS of a confirmed case through the dedicated emergency, email:


Q: Mandatory training for some programs is due over the next couple of months, can we delay this for a period of time?

A: If mandatory training programs cannot be delivered within the recommended social distancing guidelines, DHS will work with you to develop alternative plans.

Q: If a worker or family member contracts the virus and a whole office is quarantined for two weeks, how do we deliver contracted services?

A: This will depend on the nature of the work. It is possible, in some cases, that contingency measures can be put in place, such as telephone or video-conferencing services. This will need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Workforce flexibility and co-ordination will remain an ongoing point of consideration, including with the NDIA.

Q: Will we require our carers to have safety plans within their own homes?

A: This will not be a formal requirement but should be considered for the best interests of carers and their clients.

Q: I am interested in further information on considerations/precautious around bringing groups of people together in order to deliver a service/program.

See the Commonwealth Department of Health website for more information

PPES/Hygiene products

Q: Do we have a responsibility to our carers to provide them with some support to access hygiene products?

SA Health has commenced co-ordinating PPE requirements for all government agencies as well as councils and NGOs.

The SA Health customer service team will prioritise and process all requests for PPE in accordance with a documented decision framework.

If an NGO (or government agency) thinks that they are being disadvantaged by the decision framework, there will be a mechanism to provide feedback and justify why their requirement should be prioritised.

Further information on this is coming from SA Health shortly.

Stay up to date with latest NGO news

Stay up to date with latest NGO news

Messages from the Acting Chief Executive, Lois Boswell


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Key contact points

Key contact points

If there are any suspected or confirmed case of Coronavirus (COVID-19), please alert us.


For other matters, contact the COVID-19 Response Team.


Media releases

Media releases

$130 Billion JobKeeper Payment to Keep Australians in a job

Issued 30 March 2020 from the Prime Minister and Treasurer

The Morrison Government will provide a historic wage subsidy to around 6 million workers who will receive a flat payment of $1,500 per fortnight through their employer, before tax.

The $130 billion JobKeeper payment will help keep Australians in jobs as tackle the significant economic impact from the coronavirus. The payment will be open to eligible businesses that receive a significant financial hit caused by the coronavirus.

$130 Billion JobKeeper Payment to Keep Australians in a job

Policies and Resources for NGOs

Page last updated : 30 Mar 2020

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