ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

COVID-19 Update, 22 October 2021

22 October 2021

If you would like to share any gaps or issues affecting your organisation, or any services that require increased funding to meet an immediate need in the COVID-19 response, please get in touch with ACTCOSS through our general email address [email protected] or email someone from the team.


Key Updates

[New!] Helpful legal information for community sector organisations on Managing Vaccination in the Workplace has been produced by Justice Connect. Justice Connect's Not-for-profit Law practice provides legal help for community organisations. The website discusses questions like: Can our organisation make a COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for employees or volunteers? What are the key employment-related legal requirements and considerations for COVID-19 vaccines? What evidence of vaccine status should organisations require from employees?

[New!] Invitation to ACTCOSS Vaccination Roundtable from 10:30am-12pm on 28 October via teams. As the ACT emerges from lockdown, we are keen to have a discussion around vaccinations and the implications for the community sector workforce, volunteers and service delivery. Join the meeting.

[New!] The ACT Government have provided further guidance for keeping your business COVID safe. Access key information on conducting a risk assessment, building a COVID Safety Plan, meeting legislative obligations and being informed about the Public Health directions and vaccination advice. Find out more.

[New!] ACTCOSS to provide consolidated information to Minister Davidson about areas of the mandatory vaccination requirements for disability support and aged care workers that need to be clarified. If you have information on groups of workers or volunteers where requirements are unclear or operational, policy and implementation issues that require urgent clarification, please email to [email protected] and copy our CASP Development and Disability Policy Officer Bianca Williams via [email protected] by 5pm Friday 22 October. You can also contact ACT Health at [email protected]. Information about the new public health direction is on the ACT COVID-19 website.

[New!] Third doses for immunocompromised now available at AIS Arena. Bookings can be made through the COVID-19 booking line on 02 5124 7700 and are available at Access and Sensory Clinics. The dose is only available to a specific cohort of Australians for whom two doses are not as effective. This is not classified as a booster. Prior to booking, patients should contact their doctor to assess if they are eligible. A letter from a doctor must be provided prior to the vaccination.

The ACT Government announced on Monday 27 September the ACT’s COVID-19 Pathway Forward. To assist us in our advocacy, if you have any questions regarding the re-opening of the ACT, the roadmap and implications for your service and your clients, email Heather Fitt, Senior Capability Officer ([email protected]) and we will collate these to raise with the relevant ACT Government Directorate.

Invitation for public submissions on the ACT Government’s response to COVID-19: A Select Committee has been formed to ensure that the ACT Government decisions made in response to the pandemic are transparent and open to appropriate public scrutiny. Submissions close 19 November 2021. Further information on lodging a submission is available at: Inquiry into the COVID-19 2021 pandemic response - ACT Legislative Assembly

[New!] Advice from ACT Health in response to questions from the community sector following the release of the ACT’s Pathway Forward Framework.

Question: For the delivery of essential community services including mental health programs what are the rules around social distancing and density?

A: If an NGO is delivering an essential service, including in health, aged care, mental health or disability support, they are required to operate with appropriate COVID-safe measures. Providers should aim to adhere to density limits (1 person per 4m2) where possible, but this is not a requirement.

The more general advice for community organisations that are not delivering an essential service is to adhere to the density limits (1 person per 4m2) in areas that are open to the public. However, in staff-only areas there is no requirement to meet the density limits (1 person per 4m2), but again organisations should aim to adhere to these limits where possible.

Organisations should have a COVID Safety Plan in place and regularly check the ACT Health COVID-19 Website.

Question: Is physical distancing required during the transport of clients to/from NGO-delivered community programs?

A: Community transport buses can continue to operate. However, organisations should develop COVID Safety Plans to assist in carefully considering what restrictions they may wish to put in place to minimise the risk of community transmission. Some matters which could be considered include:

  • Ensure that available seating in vehicles is spaced to adhere to 1.5 metre social distance guidelines wherever it is possible and practical to do so. Family and residential groups are permitted to sit in closer proximity but should be advised to maintain distance to other individuals and family/residential groups. It is recognised that this may not be possible for smaller vehicles.
  • Time within the confines of the vehicle should be limited.
  • Hand hygiene should be encouraged for patrons and staff, and enforced upon each entry to the vehicle.
  • You should not allow anyone who is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to board the vehicle. 
  • Everyone over 12 years old is to a wear mask. Organisations should consider enhanced cleaning before, between and after trips, paying attention to high touch surfaces.
  • Consider keeping some vehicle windows open to allow air to circulate.

ACTCOSS COVID-19 Advocacy

ACTCOSS has been advocating on behalf of community organisations and people experiencing disadvantage during this COVID-19 pandemic period through the following:

  • ACTCOSS has publicly congratulated the ACT Government in its achievement of 99% first vaccine and being on track to 99% double vaccine by end-November. ACTCOSS has highlighted the power of government and community partners working closely together to support vulnerable communities.

  • The ACT reached 80% 16+ double dose on 17 October meaning that COVID Disaster Payments are expected to cease in the first week of November 2021. As at 17 October 2021: 65,000 people in the ACT have received at least one COVID Disaster Payment. ACTCOSS is engaging with relevant stakeholders to ensure that people on low incomes in the ACT can access appropriate income support if they remain impacted by COVID-19.

  • ACTCOSS has written to the Corrections Commissioner to ask for a clear COVID-19 roadmap towards reopening the AMC to all external service providers and family members of detainees.

  • ACTCOSS met with ACT Health to highlight challenges and find solutions to issues faced by CASP providers in the move to mandatory vaccinations for disability and in-home aged care support workers.

  • With Carers ACT, MHCC and ACT MHCN, ACTCOSS met with MHJADS (Mental Health, Justice Health and Alcohol & Drug Services) to discuss issues including vaccination rates in AMC and mental health facilities, access for Official Visitors, access for families and sharing of information.

  • ACTCOSS has publicly supported the position of Julie Tongs OAM, CEO of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services in her call for the mandatory vaccination of corrections staff.

  • ACTCOSS meets weekly with the Community Services Directorate and ACT Health to raise issues regarding the COVID-19 response.

ACTCOSS Meeting with Members and Peaks on COVID-19: If you are a member of ACTCOSS or an ACT peak body for the community sector, you are welcome to attend our weekly COVID-19 online meetings. Please email [email protected] for more information.


Helplines

Care Financial Counselling National Debt Helpline - 1800 007 007: Appointments via phone, Zoom and telephone interpreter services if needed. Financial abuse during COVID-19 fact sheet also provides critical information and contact details for services that offer relevant assistance.

NDIS - 1800 800 110 and press 5: For escalating COVID-related plan review requests.

ACT COVID-19 Helpline - 02 6207 7244: 8am-8pm daily.  Or visit the ACT Government’s COVID-19 website.

Disability Information Helpline - 1800 643 787: Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat-Sun 9am-7pm. The Australian Government has established a Disability Information Helpline. The helpline is not available on national public holidays. 

National COVID-19 vaccine helpline - 1800 020 080: This line operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Older Person’s Advocacy Network - 1800 700 600: Anyone living in an aged care facility, their family or representative who needs support could contact the network.

Access and Sensory Vaccination Clinic - 02 5124 7700 (select option 3): Call between 7am-7pm daily. The Access and Sensory Clinic offers clients a quieter space; longer appointment times; a separate entrance; vaccinations for support staff, volunteer or carers attending the appointment at the same time as the person with disability; an accessible entry point for wheelchairs and other mobility equipment.

  • The Access and Sensory clinic has moved to Weston Creek Community Health Centre, 24 Parkinson Street, Weston. Accessible parking and entry are available at the Weston Creek Community Health Centre. Appointments are available Mon-Fri, 8am-3.30pm.

[New!] Access and Sensory Testing Clinic: The COVID-19 Surge Centre at Garran have a dedicated access and sensory testing service to provide a testing service catered to the needs of people with a disability. It is open 7:30am-9pm seven days a week and no booking is required.


Emergency relief and financial support

Emergency relief information guides: Volunteering ACT Community Info Hub have created useful information guides listing resources including free meals, laundry and showers, as well as emergency relief services. Find the latest guides here.

Assistance from Vinnies Shops: Following the recent relaxation on non-essential retail stores, Vinnies Shops will be providing material assistance by appointment via its Emergency Relief Helpline. Call 02 6282 2722 (Mon-Fri, 9am-3.30pm) you will then be asked to complete the Vinnies Shop Order Form (pdf via Google Docs).

Emergency Food Relief - call 1800 43 11 33, 9am-5pm: The ACT Government has partnered with VolunteeringACT and the State Emergency Service (SES) to provide emergency food relief to those in need. Any Canberran who is significantly and adversely impacted by the lockdown and is unable to feed their family is encouraged to call.

Emergency Relief Support: MARSS is providing emergency financial and food relief to anyone in financial distress residing in ACT and surrounding regions. Relief includes supermarket vouchers, culturally appropriate food hampers and essential home items, can pay outstanding bills and support clients to refinance or restructure payment plans to alleviate financial distress. Please refer anyone in need to MARSS on 02 6248 8577.

UnitingCare Kippax: Currently operating 9am-4pm daily (Cnr Luke Street and Hardwick Cres, Holt) for the distribution of emergency items (food, hygiene products and prescription support) and financial aid. Call 02 6254 1733 or visit Uniting Care Kippax.

Roundabout Canberra – essentials for babies and children: Open during lockdown for social agencies to pass on to their clients. Includes essential items for babies and children. Not open to the public. Contact [email protected] or call 02 6193 6452 for more information or visit roundaboutcanberra.org.

[email protected]: Our community pantries at Tuggeranong and Gungahlin are now OPEN. While in lockdown, we’ll have a ‘Tick and Collect’ system. Clients select their food and essential items, wait at the door of the pantry, and our staff to collect and bring items to them.

Carers support: Carers ACT has resourcing available during this time to support carers through the provision of in-home help, emergency respite, financial assistance, advocacy supports, counselling, etc, so please direct any carers to Carers ACT for support.

COVID-19 Disaster Payment: Canberrans unable to earn an income during the lockdown may be able to access the Australian Government’s COVID-19 Disaster Payment. The ACT reached 80% 16+ double dose on 17 October meaning that COVID Disaster Payments are expected to cease in the first week of November 2021.

Support to isolate while waiting for a test result: ACT Government COVID-19 Test Hardship Isolation Payment (pdf): A payment of $270 will be made to eligible workers who isolate while awaiting their COVID 19 test result. Apply for the isolation payment here.

Support if you have COVID-19, are a close contact, or have to care for someone with COVID-19: The COVID-19 Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment is available if an individual has been directed by ACT Health to self-isolate or quarantine and has no leave entitlements. Apply over the phone or by completing the claim form here.

Rent relief for not-for-profit tenants of ACT Property Group: Not-for-profit organisations who are tenants of ACT Property Group if they can demonstrate a 15% reduction in revenue from any time after 1 August 2021. Please read the letter from Minster Chris Steel (pdf) for more information. Organisations should complete a Rent Relief Application Form (docx) to apply.


Service changes and updates

Additional appointments at Weston Creek Access and Sensory Vaccination Clinic: An additional 120 appointments each week have been allocated. To book an appointment or move an appointment to an earlier date, call the vaccination booking line on 02 5124 7700 (select option 3), 7am-7pm.

[New!] Update from ACT Official Visitors for Disability Services: Face-to-face visiting will recommence, adhering to the ACT Health directions such as social distancing and mask wearing. To arrange this, fill out the Official Visitors form online, phone 1800 150 036 or email [email protected].

[New!] Access and Sensory Testing Clinic: The COVID-19 Surge Centre at Garran have a dedicated access and sensory testing service to provide a testing service catered to the needs of people with a disability. It is open 7:30am-9pm seven days a week and no booking is required.

[New!] Reopening of Access Canberra Services centres from 1 November. The centres will be reopened to undertake transactions which cannot be completed online and no booking will be required. Until 29 October, the appointment model will persist and customers must book an appointment by calling 13 22 81. Visit the website for more information.

Free interpreting services to non-Medicare patients receiving COVID-19 vaccine extended: Private Medical Practices, Pharmacies.

NDIS participants vaccination update: The NDIA and Pharmacy Guild Australia are making it easier for NDIS participants to book and access COVID-19 vaccinations through local pharmacies. Read the media release.

Services Australia Centres: A reminder that all Services Australia Centres are open 8.30am-4.30pm. During lockdown people are encouraged to use the self-service function or phone. If assistance is required for payments and services, please contact [email protected].

Conflict Resolution Service Safe and Connected Youth Program will be providing services virtually and over the phone during lockdown. For services call 02 6189 0590 to speak to one of their program staff.

Standby After Suicide Support is open during lockdown. 1300 111 400 or email [email protected]. Free books and resources also available.

OneLink Operating Hours: Normal hours of operation will continue throughout the lockdown period. These are Monday to Friday 8.00am-6.00pm, and Saturday and Sunday 12.30pm-5.00pm.  Service users are encouraged to make contact with OneLink by phoning 1800 176 468 or via www.onelink.org.au.  OneLink has access to funding to support the most vulnerable members of the Canberra community, including temporary hotel accommodation for residents in homelessness and community housing who need to self-isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19. Call Jacinta Bishop, Acting Manager on 02 6207 6885 or email [email protected] for more information.

Housing ACT Support for Rough Sleepers, Domestic Violence Crisis Service, Canberra Rape Crisis Centre Operating Hours:

Organisation

Operating hours

Service delivery during Lockdown

Early Morning Centre,
Uniting Care Canberra

Monday to Friday, 7.30-8.30am, and 9am-1pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

Take-away meals.
Program activities on hold until further notice

Blue Door,
St Vincent de Paul

Monday to Friday 9am-2.30pm, with breakfast served at 9am and lunch at 12pm.

Take-away meals.
Social inclusion via phone.
Outreach for essential needs.

Roadhouse,
Australian Red Cross

4.30pm to 5.30pm Saturday to Thursday.
Soup Kitchen 12.30pm-2pm Friday.

Take-away meals.

OneLink,
Woden Community Services

8am-6pm Monday to Friday
and Saturday and Sunday 12.30pm-5pm.

Staff currently working from home,
Need appointment for a face to face appointment.

Winter Lodge,
Argyle Housing

9am-5pm, Monday to Friday.

No change.
Staff onsite.

McKillop House,
CatholicCare

9am-5pm, Monday to Friday.

No change.
Staff onsite

Domestic Violence Crisis Service

24/7 service, Telephone line on 62 800 900.

No change.
24/7 crisis F2F intervention, safety planning, emergency accommodation,
respond to Police and Hospital requests.

Canberra Rape Crisis Centre

Crisis Phone Line 7am-11pm.
Call Out provision to Police and Hospital 24/7.

Intake / Crisis Appointments, Counselling Sessions (including advocacy) via phone or google/zoom. No client attendance at CRCC during the lock down period.

Migrant and Refugee Settlement Services (MARSS):

  • Casework, counselling and emergency relief support will be available over the phone to clients 9am-5pm, Mon-Fri by calling 02 6248 8577.
  • MARSS' Civic office will continue to open from 10am-4pm, Mon-Fri. During lockdown we are requesting clients not to walk in and to initially contact us on 02 6248 8577 for support. We will continue to provide in person support following a COVID risk assessment when necessary.
  • Our Belconnen office is closed, and all classes, workshops and group activities suspended. Some activities continue online.
  • Emergency Relief Support: MARSS has funding to provide emergency financial and food relief from the Commonwealth, including supermarket vouchers, culturally appropriate food hampers and essential home items, can pay outstanding bills and support clients to refinance or restructure payment plans to alleviate financial distress.
    • Note: We can support anyone in financial distress (not only migrants and refugees) and this service is also available to people residing in surrounding ACT regions including Southern Highlands, Queanbeyan, Cooma, Bega etc. Please refer anyone in need to MARSS on 02 6248 8577.

ACT Community Services Directorate Updates

Latest news at the Community Services Directorate website.

[New!] ACT Community Partner Update – 15 October 2021: Read for resources on emerging from lockdown, changes to travel restrictions, grants to support women’s safety and participation and parenting help for those returning to work.

[New!] ACT Community Partner Update – 8 October 2021: Read for resources on vaccination, mandatory vaccinations, improving access to affordable housing and business advice and support services.

NGO FAQs: The ACT Government has gathered questions from NGOs about the current COVID-19 situation in the ACT and have collated these in an FAQ document. Weblinks in response to questions are included. Read the NGO FAQs - 22 September 2021 (pdf).

COVID Response Casual Pool Jobs: Find job openings for the ACT Government’s COVID response casual pool here.

Contractual requirements: CSD will be taking a flexible and understanding approach to organisations whose service delivery is significantly impacted to the extent that contact deliverables are not achieved. If this applies to your organisation, please let your Relationship Manager know by email at [email protected]. Reporting requirements will also be deferred for all providers for the time being. Payments will not be affected. 

How to contact CSD: The ACT Community Services Directorate has set up a branch to respond to the COVID-19 situation. Outside of existing engagement, networks or contacts with relationship managers, you can contact CSD via CSD’s [email protected] inbox. Organisations can send their COVID-19 queries to this email if they need advice or have any questions.


Resources

COVID-19 info and health

Family safety

Disability

Other resources


< Past ACTCOSS COVID-19 Updates