Department of Human Services

Information for providers and clients, including health guidance and current restriction responsibilities

    Q: Who is an essential worker?

    A: Each state and territory is following its own Directions and restrictions specific to its circumstances. We recommend checking South Australian Government issued advice prior to referring to Commonwealth Government information or information from other states or sources.

    South Australia does not currently have a general, official definition of what is an “essential worker” – everyone in South Australia who has a job and can safely carry it out is essential, but certain Directions are in place in specific areas which do limit the movement of some workers, such as the restrictions in place for Aged Care Residential Facilities and workers travelling across the border.

    Q: How can my NGO access Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?

    A: SA Health coordinates PPE requirements across state government and for NGOs and has advised that supply channels are good. If you have questions or need to place an order, email HealthPSCMSCOCustomerService@sa.gov.au or telephone 8425 9200 and press option three.

    The DHS NGO COVID-19 Support website includes current guidelines on PPE use and Infection Control. The Blue Knot Foundation has put out a resource on tips for people with complex trauma and masks which may assist you.

    It should be noted that the stocking of PPE is up to the Provider and any additional costs over any NDIS contributions you may be eligible for are also the cost of the provider.

    Q: What is the latest information on COVID-19 specific cleaning and disinfection?

    A: We recommend visiting the SA Health website to view their COVID-19 specific cleaning advice. You can also visit our guidelines page to view further information on waste management and managing an environmental disinfection. It should be noted that the organisation of the cleaning is up to the Provider and any additional costs over any NDIS contributions you may be eligible for are the cost of the provider.

    Q: Do service providers need to create a COVID-Safe Plan?

    A: No. There are a range of services that are exempt from preparing COVID-Safe Plans which includes disability, supported residential facilities, and aged care and residential facilities.

    Q: Can service providers continue to conduct home visits?

    A: DHS has developed a guideline to provide advice on home visiting during the pandemic. The guideline is based on advice from SA Health.

    Q: Are disability day options still allowed?

    A: This will change depending on the situation at the time. At the beginning of the pandemic, most day option and external activities were cancelled, and organisations shifted to in-home or virtual activities. As South Australia continued to track well with containing the spread of COVID-19, some day options and activities were able to resume. Providers and participants should liaise directly with the organisations that provide their services to see what is available and the risk management precautions that are in place.

    Q: Will the health system admit people with disability with COVID?

    A: SA Health is committed to providing health services that are fair to all South Australians, promoting access to safe and quality health care. Health professionals must provide care of the same quality to people with disabilities as to all South Australians.

    South Australia’s State Disability Inclusion Plan 2019–2023 brings State Government agencies and local councils together to reduce the barriers faced by people living with disability.

    Supported Independent Living (SIL) providers should refer to the latest SIL Operational Response Plan on the Guidelines page.

    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: We encourage service providers to reach out to clients in such a position and provide them with hard copy resources if required. Please also refer to the guideline on home visiting during the pandemic that has been prepared by DHS based on advice from SA Health.

    Q: Can residents isolate in their disability group home if they share a bathroom?

    A: SA Health has advised that a resident would be required to have their own dedicated bathroom if they need to self-isolate.​

    Guidelines have been prepared which explain the necessary steps to be taken if you need to self-isolate when living with others.

    Supported Independent Living (SIL) providers can refer to the latest SIL Operational Response Plan on the Guidelines page for more information on what to do in the case of a positive test or outbreak.

    Q: Will prioritised COVID-19 testing occur for particular client groups?

    A: Providers should refer to the latest on testing on the Guidelines page as this information is updated frequently and processes followed previously may have changed.

    You can also view the general SA Health information on how to get tested for COVID-19, including testing options and locations.

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

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

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

    The service provider is asked to immediately advise DHS of a confirmed case by emailing DHSCOVIDResponse@sa.gov.au.

    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.

    The service provider is asked to immediately advise DHS of a confirmed case by emailing DHSCOVIDResponse@sa.gov.au.

    Q: Should NGOs notify DHS if clients are undergoing self-isolation or testing for COVID-19?

    A: The service provider is asked to immediately advise DHS of a confirmed case by emailing DHSCOVIDResponse@sa.gov.au.

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

    Q: How will case management work for clients who have co-morbid COVID-19 and other complexities?

    A: Each case of COVID-19 and each patient will be clinically assessed and managed by SA Health on an individual basis.

    Providers should follow the latest directions and advice from SA Health regarding the care of clients with complex needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Q: What long term follow-up will occur of recovered COVID-19 cases?

    A: SA Health has provided an information pack for patients who test positive which has the latest and best information as relevant to South Australians.

    Q: What should we do if mandatory training for some programs is due in a period when South Australia is experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19?

    A: If mandatory training programs cannot be delivered within the recommended social distancing guidelines, please contact DHS immediately. DHS will work with you to develop alternative plans to ensure that regulatory obligations are met.

    Q: What exactly is the message about working from home?

    A: The South Australia Government advice on this changed in early September 2020 when the Premier encouraged those who could safely return to their workplace to do so. This includes workplaces needing to have a Business Continuity Plan in place as well as necessary COVID-19 precautions.

    Service providers know their own business best, so you will need to consider the needs of your business and the needs of your staff as relevant to your situation. We recommend visiting the COVID-19 Business and Work website for the latest information.

    As the pandemic continues, we 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: Why are NDIS providers required to undertake increased levels of reporting at the same time they are putting in place COVID-19 plans?

    A: Providers are required to notify the NDIS Commission when a support worker or NDIS participant is confirmed to have COVID-19 or other changes related to COVID-19.

    DHS also asks for any cases to be reported to the department - this is not mandatory, but it will help us understand where risks exist and ensure that impacted providers get appropriate support. Please report any confirmed COVID-19 cases to DHSCovidResponse@sa.gov.au.

    Q: How will the Department support organisations that 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 has developed 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: 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 these periods, however service providers must still ensure minimum safety standards are met.

    DHS will work with individual providers to try and resolve any workforce issues if and when the need arises. Please contact DHS for further advice and assistance as required.

    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 National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).

    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, for example, therapy provision? Are there any guidelines around the advance payment that the National Disability Insurance Agency has given providers? How do we allocate spending against each client or is it not for specific client expenses?

    A: The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has released key information for NDIS clients and providers.

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

    Page last updated : 18 Sep 2020

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