This is update 13 from WACOSS on COVID-19. We are committed to providing the WA community services sector with crucial information and high level resources as necessary, until the pandemic subsides.
Content from these updates will be posted on the Community Services Resource page on the WACOSS website.
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT UPDATES
The Federal Government has broadened the JobKeeper eligibility criteria in the legislation to be introduced on Wednesday, in an effort to make it easier for charities to access the subsidies. Charities registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission (ACNC) that have suffered a 15 per cent decline in turnover as a result of the coronavirus will be eligible for JobKeeper subsidy. This was announced in a media release on Sunday 5 April.
The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has welcomed these changes, but warned that some charities will still face significant job losses and service cuts. ACOSS is urging the Federal Government to ensure "specific purpose funding, including under government contracts, is not included in the revenue test", and that this forms part of the legislation, in addition to the 15% test. Read the ACOSS media release here.
The Federal Government has added flexibility of delivery of services to allow for GPs and Medical Practitioners to use Telehealth and phone consultations to keep people in the community and away from hospitals. A number of Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items available through Telehealth and phone consultations has been expanded, such as consultations for the preparation of a Mental Health Treatment Plan. More information has been included in this recent Community Sector Partnership Team update.
STATE GOVERNMENT UPDATES
On the weekend, the State Emergency Welfare Plan was activated. Under the plan, Michelle Andrews, Director General of the Department of Communities becomes the State Welfare Coordinator, and the Department of Communities takes the primary responsibility for coordinating the provision of “welfare services” across the state (as defined in the Emergency Management Act 2005). This includes the provision of accommodation, food, clothing, and financial assistance, and may extend to other critical support services. Read more in the update from the Community Sector Partnership Team here.
SOCIAL DISTANCING DIRECTIONS
WACOSS has received queries from service providers in light of the WA Government’s social distancing regulations in response to COVID-19.
The Prohibited Gatherings Directions can be found here, which provide the following advice:
- Public gatherings, excluding household members, limited to a maximum of two people,
- Minimise all unnecessary contact with others,
- Keep 1.5 metres away from others,
- Avoid physical greetings such as handshakes, hugs and kisses,
- Use tap and pay instead of cash.
However, within the guidelines, point 8 (g) exempts those for “for the purposes of providing care or assistance (including personal care) to a vulnerable person or providing emergency assistance.”
In addition, it’s recommended that community services staff and volunteers carry a letter from their employer and photo ID if they are delivering services and crossing intra-state borders. This advice also featured in our Bulletin on 2 April 2020.