ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

COVID-19 Update No.3, 27 March 2020

27 March 2020

ACT Property Group Update

The ACT Property Group is writing to tenants informing them that many ACT Property Group buildings are being closed in line with the Federal Government’s announcement. However, they are keeping the venues open for essential services.

If you are a community service that has received this notice and you need to continue operations, you should send an email to [email protected] with the name of the organisation and opening hours. So that essential services can continue, ACT Property Group have confirmed that all buildings will remain accessible.

ACTCOSS COVID-19 Advocacy

ACTCOSS are seeking clarification on the definition of essential service. If you are not sure about whether or not you are an “essential service” and need to continue your work in the case of a broader lockdown, please email [email protected]. We need to ensure that the needs of vulnerable people will continue to be met.

ACTCOSS have been advocating on behalf of community organisations during this COVID-19 pandemic period through actions including:

  • Letter to the ACT Minister for Multicultural Affairs Chris Steel to:
    • Highlight that many people seeking asylum, international students, and people on visas without access to Centrelink have no access to any income
    • Ensure information on support for businesses is translated into key languages and distributed widely
    • Invite a coordinated approach between ACT Government and NFPs in the ACT to ensure culturally and linguistically diverse Canberrans are protected during COVID-19
  • Hosting COVID-19 specific teleconferences with our networks to identify current and emerging gaps to flag with Federal Government advocacy partners and/or decision makers in the ACT Government:
    • Community Assistance and Support Program (CASP) – weekly telco on Wednesdays 10am – please contact [email protected] for more info
    • Human Resources Professionals – fortnightly telco next on Thursday 2 April – please contact [email protected] for more info
  • In touch with the Health Directorate and Minister for Health on issues impacting the CASP and broader community sector network, including:
    • Lack of access to key Canberra Health Service activities, including services such as wound dressing
    • Dwindling supplies of cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE)
    • Need for flexibility in CASP service provision to meet immediate need
  • Letter to the Chief Minister’s Office to call for a suspension of rent for community sector organisations who are tenants of ACT Government property
  • Signing an open letter written by criminal justice professionals and academic experts (Google doc) urgently calling on Attorney-Generals and Corrections Ministers to:
    • Implement widespread testing of prisoners
    • Immediately release low-risk prisoners with priority placed on those with chronic health conditions
    • Increase responsiveness of health services in prisons.

ACOSS COVID-19 Advocacy

  • ACOSS are calling on the Federal Government to address the remaining gaps in the social safety net for people currently ineligible for Commonwealth income support, including all non-citizens in Australia on temporary visas, such as asylum seekers. This must include access to income support, relevant concessions and health services. We cannot allow anyone to fall through the cracks at this critical time
  • ACOSS are seeking clarify regarding which community organisations deliver “essential services” to ensure relevant organisations get appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), so financial viability decisions can be made, and repurposing of roles can begin for workers stood down in our sector
  • ACOSS are advocating for community sector representation on the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission 
  • ACOSS are developing an advocacy response to payday lenders remaining open, and the potential for exploitation of vulnerable groups given supplementary Centrelink payments
  • ACOSS will be sharing gaps emerging for children in out-of-home care with State / Territory councils of social service
  • ACOSS are advocating to extend the period where social security mutual obligations are suspended, beyond the current date of 31 March 2020.

Community Sector Updates

Canberra Relief Network – CRN

The Canberra Relief Network (CRN) is the ACT Government's response to the sudden and overwhelming demand for food and non-perishable household essential items that is occurring and is expected to increase as a direct result of COVID-19.

The aim of CRN is to support individuals who are not able to purchase items in the supermarket due to vulnerability. Eligibility is restricted to those who absolutely have no other choice. This includes:

  • Pre-existing clients of food pantries
  • Current clients of community services organisations
  • Community members that are identified as vulnerable through government support
  • People escaping family violence, refugees and migrants
  • People directly affected by the pandemic: casual employees experiencing hardship, those in the gig economy, and those that are isolated or incapacitated due to illness and require direct assistance.

ACT Government will provide $1.5m over next 6 months to ensure vulnerable groups get urgent food and essential items through a food pantry model, coordinated by the Canberra Relief Network – ACTCOSS will share more info as it becomes available.

Other Updates

Service Changes

Resources

< Past ACTCOSS COVID-19 Updates