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Information and support for Victorian service providers

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NDS will add questions and answers to this document as they become available. We encourage all members to check the DHHS Coronavirus webpage for definitive advice.

14 August 2020

Q. Can ADE services continue to operate under Stage 4 restrictions?

Stage 4 restrictions mean that people can leave home for one of the following four reasons:

  1. Shopping for food or other essential goods and services (within five kilometres of where you live)
  2. To provide caregiving, for compassionate reasons or to seek medical treatment
  3. For exercise (with only one other person) – (within 5 kilometres from where you live and only once a day for one hour only).
  4. Permitted work or study, if you cannot work or study from home.

People with disability are able to leave home to work, including in supported employment, where the work being undertaken is permitted work and cannot be undertaken from home. This will need to be assessed on a case by case basis.

Specific ADE services

Supported employment that might be provided by ADE services includes the following:

  • Gardening: this is in the “other permitted services” category. This category includes essential maintenance for safety and upkeep of public and recreational spaces, such as parks, gardens and golf courses. It does not include domestic lawn mowing or gardening.
  • Cleaning: ancillary and support businesses can operate to ensure the necessary cleaning required for the premises of a permitted workplace, or for a workplace that is closed, where there are safety or environmental obligations.
  • Cafes/restaurants: are permitted to provide takeaway and delivery of food services.
  • Waste management: operations including collection, treatment and disposal services, and transfer stations can remain open for commercial contractors.
  • Packaging – where providing support to an essential industry or where required to maintain the health and safety of Victorians at work or home.
  • Manufacturing – certain types of manufacturing are included as a permitted activity for example manufacturing of food and beverage packaging, paper and converted paper product.

On a case by case basis, supported employment can occur where the work undertaken is a permitted activity. The list of permitted activities is available on the DHHS website.

Q. What about ADEs in regional areas?

Regional areas are under Stage 3 restrictions and are not subject to the permitted workplaces directions.

Regional areas are still subject to Stay at Home Directions (non-Melbourne) and Restricted Activity Directions (non-Melbourne) and should be aware of these requirements. Further information about restriction levels is available on the DHHS website. 

25 September 2020

Q. If due to behaviours and/or cognitive impairment a person refuses to wear a mask are they not allowed out in the community?

People with a disability must wear a face covering unless it is unsuitable to do so for medical, physical, communication or other risk factors. If a person with disability is unable to wear a face covering, they can still go out in the community but should take extra care to maintain physical distancing from others. Please see resources for people with disability for badges that a person may choose to wear to indicate their exemption.

14 August 2020

Q. What is the impact of the Stage 4 restrictions on behaviour support?

Increased restrictions under Stage 4 – Stay at Home (Restricted Area) Directions (no 10) (Stay at Home Directions) have been introduced to limit the number of people leaving their home and moving around the Victorian community, including attending work premises. The restrictions include a curfew from 8.00 pm to 5.00 am.

There are four reasons to leave home:

  1. Shopping for food or other essential goods and services (within five kilometres of where you live)
  2. To provide caregiving, for compassionate reasons or to seek medical treatment
  3. For exercise (with only one other person) – (within 5 kilometres from where you live and only once a day for one hour only).
  4. Work or study, if you cannot work or study from home.

Supports and activities which take place outside the person's home and which are included in the person's behaviour support plan to support the person’s behaviour, fall under the 'caregiving’ reason for leaving home, and are therefore not subject to time, distance or curfew restrictions.

That is, where these activities form part of a person's behaviour support plan or are documented activities for behaviour support (e.g. by a therapist, psychologist, etc.) disability support workers can support clients to:

  • go for a walk, hike or drive more than once a day and for longer than one hour
  • drive further than 5km from the person's home
  • drive during curfew hours (8.00 pm - 5.00 am).

Two people can go out together and be supported by a worker, or a person can be supported by two workers in the community if required as part of their plan. A ‘worker’ is considered to be working so is additional to the two-person exercise rule. This is because the worker is not going out to exercise themselves, but to provide support.

Q. What documentation is required?

Disability support workers are required to have their work permit with them.

In addition to their work permit, where disability support workers are providing behaviour supports included in a person’s behaviour support plan, or implementing strategies recommended by a professional (GP or therapist), it is advisable for workers to also have with them documentation such as the person’s behaviour support plan or a letter from the person’s therapist/behaviour support practitioner/psychologist.

13 August 2020

Questions and Answers relating to people with complex needs and behaviours of concern:

Supports which take place outside the person's home and which need to be implemented to support a person’s behaviour fall under the “care and compassionate” reasons for leaving home, and are therefore are not subject to exercise or curfew restrictions. Disability support workers or families can support clients to:

  • go for a walk, hike or drive more than once a day and for longer than one hour
  • drive further than 5km from the person's home
  • drive during curfew hours (8pm-5am)

Where these activities form part of a person's behaviour support plan/ documented behaviour support strategies.

Q. The Stage 4 restrictions are a significant risk for people who need to go out for a drive or take long walks to self-regulate and avoid behaviours of concern (e.g. property damage, personal injury). See above. Is there an exemption for these people and if so, how will it be communicated to people with intellectual disability, families, service providers, the public, businesses, private security and the police?

Under Stage 4 restrictions a person may leave home for care and compassionate reasons. As above “care or compassionate” reasons are not subject to stage 4 restrictions in relation to curfews, times or the 5 km rule. A fact sheet is being developed which will provide clarity and will be available on the DHHS web-site and distributed to the sector.

Disability support workers are required to have a permit and this should assist to demonstrate compliance with the directions if questioned.

Families should carry documentation that the purpose of being outside the home is to provide care as part of a behaviour support plan, strategies recommended by a professional / GP etc. NDS and DHHS have raised this matter with Victoria Police and will be providing the fact sheet to Victoria Police.

Q. What if two people with a disability go out with one staff member on a regular basis even just for some exercise, will this be allowed to continue with the two-person rule?

Two people can go out together and be supported by a worker or a person can be supported by two workers in the community if required as part of their plan. A “worker” is working so is additional to the two-person rule. This is because the worker is not going out to exercise themselves but to provide support.

Q. Can staff still take participants out on 1:1 outings in the community (if they wear masks, observe social distancing & other restrictions) to maintain routine and wellbeing? Is this different in regional areas at Stage 3 and/or also in Metro Stage 4?

Yes - as above. The difference is that additional activities are restricted under Stage 4; for example outdoor recreation such as fishing, golf etc

Q. The Stage 4 restrictions are a significant risk for clients with BOC (Behaviours of Concern). Travelling in a vehicle or being outdoors (typically in lightly populated areas) is an important way to self-regulate their mood and avoid behaviours of concern. Are these types of activities permitted?

If these are recommended strategies for the person’s behaviour support, they are able to travel in vehicles or be outdoors (where an activity is not restricted; for example, outdoor recreation) to self-regulate their mood and avoid behaviours of concern.

Q. Are you aware of whether exceptions to the restrictions are possible in the above circumstances?

As above. If the activities are part of a behaviour support plan / recommended behaviour support strategies (and are not restricted activities) they are not subject to the time, distance or curfew restriction

17 November 2020

Q. How does the Victorian roadmap for reopening impact day services?

Disability services are considered "restricted" in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria during Step 3 and the last step of the roadmap to reopening. This will continue to mean that only services that are essential to a person's health, safety, behaviour or wellbeing can operate during this time.  

For centre-based disability day services, this means that supports can be provided if essential to a person with disability, and where online services are not practical.  This would apply where people are living in their own / family home etc. Where essential centre based services are operating indoors it is critical that physical distancing and appropriate hygiene measures are in place. Centre based services are not considered essential for people living in disability residential services.

This is expected to remain the advice until we reach COVID Normal.

Q. Do staff require a COVID test and negative result before they can commence a shift at a second site?

There is no longer the requirement for workers to return a negative COVID-19 test when they have worked in a metropolitan Melbourne residential service and then work in a regional residential service (or in the reverse). However, workplace directions still restrict worker mobility.

14 August 2020

Q. What is the impact of Stage 4 restrictions on centre-based / day services?

Increased restrictions under Stage 4 – Stay at Home Directions have been introduced to limit the number of people leaving their home and moving around the Victorian community, including attending work premises.

Essential services are permitted to continue across Victoria under both Stage 3 and Stage 4 - Stay at Home restrictions.

These are disability supports that are essential to a person’s health, safety, behaviour and wellbeing.

People living in Stay at Home Restricted Areas must only leave home to attend a centre-based disability service if one of the four reasons to leave home applies.

Due to the risk of community transmission attendance at a centre based disability service should only occur if considered essential. It is not considered essential for people who are living in disability residential services.

For clients living in the community, where centre-based services form part of a person’s behaviour support plan or are required to prevent caregiver breakdown, face to face delivery may occur where remote delivery is not possible or appropriate. This service would come under the “caregiving” reason for leaving home. In these circumstances, adherence to safety protocols is paramount.

Where necessary services/supports are provided by centre-based disability services in the Stay at Home Restricted Areas (whether in specific purpose facilities or other community facilities) or in the community, it is critical that physical distancing and appropriate hygiene measures are in place.

All disability support workers are required to wear a single-use surgical mask and eye protection when at work at all times. This applies across the whole of Victoria.

Disability support workers are required to have their work permit with them. The work permit identifies that the worker is working in a permitted workplace.

4 August 2020

Q. Are day programs still allowed to operate? Should clients still be attending?

Programs are still able to operate if they comply with physical distancing and other specified requirements.

Due to the risk of community transmission attendance should only occur if considered absolutely essential. Day programs are not considered essential for people who are living in disability residential services.

The strong message of the Stage 4 restrictions is that everyone should be limiting their movement in the community at this time.

25 November 2020

Q. Based on the current stage of the 'Roadmap to recovery' are residents able to leave properties, including to go for a walk with their families, or will this be banned until we reach "COVID Normal"?

The Victorian roadmap to reopening has different levels of restrictions at each step. We are currently in Step 3 which means disability services remain Restricted to providing essential services. People with disability have the same access to the community as everyone else.

Stay at Home directions have been removed and restrictions eased which means people living in residential services have greater access to the community with family and friends in line with gathering and activity restrictions: e.g. can go for a walk, have a picnic, go to a café etc

Q. Can a person access hydrotherapy with both an allied health worker and a support worker present?

During Step 3, people can attend one-on-one or group hydrotherapy sessions.

People can access support from both an allied health worker and support worker for hydrotherapy if necessary, noting the pool operator needs to meet density requirements and not exceed the total number of people in an indoor pool at one time. Hydrotherapy can also be undertaken with a carer or individually, without a health care worker.

There are industry guidelines for both swimming pool operators and allied health professionals setting out the COVIDSafe principles, how they apply to these settings and requirements such as record keeping, cleaning etc. People accessing any service should apply general COVIDSafe requirements such as staying home if feeling unwell, washing / sanitising hands, maintaining physical distancing etc.  Face masks should be worn when out of the pool (unless an exception applies). 

25 September 2020

Q. Will "heavily restricted" and "restricted" be more or less the same in practical terms for our sector?

COVID safe principles and restrictions will continue to apply across disability services to ensure the safety of people with disability. At all steps of the roadmap, people with disability, like the rest of the Victorian community, will have increased opportunity for social interaction and activities outdoors. This is because coronavirus (COVID-19) doesn’t transmit as easily outdoors.

Q. Can small groups of people with disability who live in separate households meet or be transported together with a support worker if they maintain strict social distancing practices?

No, only people from two households can meet. Under Step 2 up to 5 people from a maximum of two households can meet outdoors for social interaction, exercise or recreation for a maximum of 2 hours and within 5 km of their home.

People should not be travelling in vehicles with people they don’t ordinarily live with. The enclosed space of a car / mini van presents a heightened risk of transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).

If a worker needs to transport a client, they should ensure the client sits in the back seat in order to maintain physical distancing, and ensure they are wearing appropriate PPE.

14 August 2020

Q. What do the Stage 4 restrictions mean for disability services?

Stage 4 restrictions apply to metropolitan Melbourne. The increased restrictions have been introduced to limit the number of people leaving their home and moving around Victoria.

If you live in metropolitan Melbourne, the Stage 4 - Stay at Home Directions (Restricted Areas) specify that you must stay at home except for one of the following four reasons:

  1. Shopping for food or other essential goods and services (within 5 km of where you live)
  2. To provide caregiving, for compassionate reasons or to seek medical treatment
  3. Permitted work or study, if you cannot work or study from home
  4. For exercise (with only one other person) – you cannot travel any further than 5 kilometres from where you live to exercise, and only once a day for one hour only.

A person can be supported by one or more support workers when leaving home for one of the four reasons.

Curfew
A curfew is in place in the Stage 4 restricted area between 8.00 pm and 5.00 am with people only being allowed to leave their home for work, essential health, care or safety reasons.

5km radius from home restrictions
A person may only go further than 5 kilometres from where they live to work, study and for essential health, care or safety reasons.

Disability services
Disability services that are part of a person’s support plan or behaviour support plan that are considered essential and that cannot be provided remotely are considered care and are able to be provided outside the 5km radius and the curfew requirements. This includes therapy, behaviour support, in-home support etc.

Permits or letters are not required for people accessing services. Consideration must be given to whether the service is essential and whether the service can be provided remotely.

Q. What services and supports can continue under Stage 4 restrictions?

Essential services are permitted to continue during Stage 4 restrictions, including disability services providing essential supports.

These supports must be essential to a person’s health, safety, behaviour and wellbeing. Essential supports can be provided in-home, in a facility, or in the community (in limited circumstances) and include:

  • Residential services, including Short-term Accommodation Assistance
  • In-home support
  • Behaviour support services
  • Community support within one of the four reasons listed above
  • Centre-based services – where support is essential to the person or the person’s family
  • Aids and Equipment / Assistive Technology – where essential.

All services should be provided remotely where possible. A person can be supported by more than one support worker when leaving home for one of the four reasons. Disability support workers may travel into restricted areas to provide essential disability services. A person may travel more than 5kms to access an essential support, if this is necessary.

Under Stage 4 restrictions, permitted workplaces in metropolitan Melbourne must have a COVID Safe plan from 11.59 pm Friday 7 August 2020. For regional Victoria under stage 3 restrictions, COVID Safe plans are advised.

This plan must focus on safety, prevention and response in the event that coronavirus is linked to the workplace. The plan could be a new plan or embedded in existing business continuity and outbreak management planning. Further information is available on the Business Victoria Health Care and Social Assistance sector guidance webpage.

Q. Are there additional restrictions on exercise activities under Stage 4 restrictions?

Exercise is restricted to one hour per day under Stage 4. A person may only exercise with one other person (e.g. no household groups) noting that a person who needs more than one support worker to exercise is permitted to have more than one support worker. Recreational activities like golf and fishing are not to be undertaken. Other restricted activities include:

  • indoor physical recreation and sport
  • outdoor sport and recreation
  • play centre or publicly accessible playground
  • skateparks
  • outdoor communal gym equipment
  • entertainment facilities.

4 August 2020

Q. Can NDIS participants travel beyond 5km to receive essential therapy services?

Yes if the therapy is essential and cannot be provided closer to home.

4 August 2020

Q. Are support coordinators still allowed to visit participants at home, especially those who are deaf and don’t have the technology to access meetings online?

All services should be provided remotely if possible. If a person is unable to communicate via remote access, then face to face visits can occur with appropriate infection control measures.

Q. Can families travel to visit their son or daughter in an SDA if it is more than 5km away?

Yes. However, families should consider whether the visit is necessary and can be provided remotely. Under the Care Facilities Directions, only one person may visit per day for a maximum of one hour.

25 November 2020

Q. Do workers have to wear eye protection when accompanying participants in the community?

Current DHHS guidance is that community services workers should wear eye protection when with clients both indoors and outdoors.

The purpose is to prevent the transference of COVID-19 through their eyes. Safety glasses are one form of eye protection that is less intrusive in community settings and can look like sunglasses.  With the low rates of COVID-19 in the community, it is likely the wear eye protection requirement will be relaxed shortly. Wearing surgical masks, however, continues to be a requirement.  Clients who are confirmed, suspected cases or close contacts of COVID-19 should be at home in isolation/quarantine.

16 October 2020

Q. I am providing support to clients who do not have COVID risk factors (i.e. suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case, or close contact of a confirmed case).  I will not need to touch them but may be close at times (less than 1.5m).  What PPE should I wear?

Surgical mask and safety glasses (or goggles or face shield if you prefer)

Q. I am providing support to clients who do not have COVID risk factors (i.e. suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case, or close contact of a confirmed case).  I will be very close to them and will need to touch them, and there may well be exposure to blood, body fluids or I may touch mucous membranes (e.g. mouth) or non-intact skin (e.g. wound).  What PPE should I wear?

Surgical mask, gloves, disposable fluid repellent gown and safety glasses (or goggles or face shield if you prefer)

Q. I am providing support to clients who do not have COVID risk factors (i.e. suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case, or close contact of a confirmed case).  I will be very close to them and may need to touch them but there is minimal risk of exposure to blood, body fluids, mucous membranes (e.g. mouth) or non-intact skin (e.g. wound).  What PPE should I wear?

Surgical mask and safety glasses (or goggles or face shield if you prefer).  If you need to protect your clothing (eg during washing, showering, feeding, art work, cooking etc) wear a suitable apron.

25 September 2020

Q. Where can I source PPE?

Disability services who cannot access PPE supplies through their usual channels can contact the National Medical Stockpile (NMS) by emailing . Failing this, Victorian providers can request PPE through DHHS by emailing All requests will be triaged with priority given where there is a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Business Victoria has also compiled a list of PPE suppliers.

DHHS announced the availability of 2.1 million reusable face masks for vulnerable Victorians, including people with disability. Service providers can order these for their clients via the Request for face masks for vulnerable people in Victoria online form.

Remember, NDS members may also access PPE stock at member-only rates through the member-only section of NDS's Coronavirus hub.

NDS continues to monitor reports of any issues with quality or supply of PPE. Please contact the Safer and Stronger project team if you are experiencing problems with accessing the PPE you need.

Q. What are the equipment and training requirements?

The NDIS Commission has developed a set of practice standards covering these procedures.  Additional guidance is also available from a range of healthcare, aged care and disability services providers. 

In the context of the COVID pandemic, if a person with COVID risk factors also has aerosol generating behaviours (AGB) or procedures (AGP) the risk of infection of workers is greatly increased.  P2N95 respirators should be worn in these situations. CPAP, nebulisers are examples of AGP but not PEG, Stoma and Catheter care.  Because of the risk of contact with body fluids with PEG, Stoma and Catheter care, PPE should be worn in accordance with DHHS guidance. This comprises surgical mask, eye protection, gloves and apron.  Training is important for the correct donning and doffing of PPE.  Guidance is available on the DHHS website.

Q. How do you claim PPE directly through NDIA? What details need to be on the invoice, and can we start invoicing now?

The NDIA has published advice regarding the claiming of PPE on the NDIS website.

27 August 2020

Q. Regarding claiming PPE through the NDIA (for registered providers in NSW, Vic and restricted parts of QLD), is it per hour or per participant?

The NDIA has confirmed that the claiming of $1.70 is per hour.  Therefore, if someone is supporting three people during the hour they still only claim $1.70.

Q. How does claiming PPE work if more than one person is providing in-home support at the same time?

If two people are approved to provide supports at the same time in the house then both workers can claim the $1.70 per hour of supports delivered.

14 August 2020

Q. Where can I find authoritative, up-to-date information about occupational PPE requirements?

Information about PPE requirements for community service providers, including disability service providers and disability support workers, can be found on the DHHS Community services - coronavirus webpage.

Information about PPE requirements for health services and professionals, including allied health workers, can be found on the DHHS Personal protective equipment - coronavirus webpage.

NDIS participants can use their core supports budget to purchase PPE. The NDIA has introduced new temporary pricing arrangements for this purpose. More information is available on the NDIS Providers - coronavirus webpage.

Q. What about PPE for non-NDIS participants?

Requests for PPE can be made by residential care providers, Supported Residential Service providers, disability group homes, crisis and congregate residential homelessness services, and other care settings. More information is available on the DHHS personal protective equipment fact sheet.

Q. Where can providers obtain personal protective equipment when an NDIS provider is self-employed?

NDIS providers who cannot access PPE supplies through usual means can contact the National Medical Stockpile by emailing .

Q. Interested in knowing suppliers of gowns and gloves?

The DHHS website will be updated shortly to include a list of potential distributors.

Q. Is there access to professionals to do training with staff around full PPE when working with a client who has a positive COVID-19 test?

The Infection Control Team is offering site visits until the end of August 2020. They provide practical assistance, support and advice on ways to prepare for and manage any outbreak of Coronavirus including the use of PPE. To arrange a visit email .

Two e-learning packages are now available from the DHHS website – one on COVID Safe practice and another on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). These will assist in building the knowledge of service providers and disability support workers to manage infection control and adhere to the current restrictions and guidance.

17 November 2020

Q. When a staff member shows symptoms of COVID-19 and gets tested, do the people they have interacted with in the workplace also need to isolate pending test results?

Individuals who have COVID-like symptoms and are awaiting the result of a COVID-19 test should self-isolate until the result is received. Contacts of these individuals need not, nor do they need to get tested if they are symptom-free.

If the result is positive, the individual will need to isolate for 14 days and until symptom-free. Close contacts and close contacts of the close contacts will also need to quarantine for 14 days. DHHS contact tracers will advise people if they need to quarantine. For further information see What to do if you have coronavirus (COVID-19).

25 September 2020

Q. If a resident has tested positive should they be hospitalised?

It depends on whether the resident’s clinical condition requires hospital care.  Most people have mild symptoms.  However. if the client has significant breathing problems or is rapidly deteriorating transfer will be needed.  It is much better for people with mild symptoms to stay out of hospitals where it can be very disorienting and alarming, visitors are not allowed which increases isolation, and hospital staff may not be aware or able to provide the support needed.  There may be a case for moving a COVID positive client to another location (eg another facility) if the care will be better or the risk of infecting other clients will be reduced.  This decision needs to be taken on a case by case basis and whether suitable alternative accommodation is available.

14 August 2020

Q. What planning should providers have in place for the management of outbreaks?

All disability service providers have a responsibility to develop and implement business continuity plans, including an outbreak management plan which can be activated immediately for a suspected or positive coronavirus (COVID-19) diagnosis in either a staff person or resident. The plan will include the establishment of an outbreak management team commensurate with the scale of the organisation.

From 7 August 2020, service providers must also have a COVID Safe Plan. Further information is available on the Business Victoria Creating a COVIDSafe workplace webpage

A confirmed positive diagnosis of coronavirus in one or more staff or residents of a disability residential service is an outbreak and must be managed to prevent further exposure and transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Q. What are disability service providers reporting requirements when a person (staff or resident) tests positive?

A document titled 'Immediate actions - coronavirus outbreak in disability services' is being developed to outline these requirements and will be available on the DHHS Disability services sector - Coronavirus webpage.

Q. When investigating who may be determined a close contact what timeframe should providers use?

People who may be considered close contacts are those who have had more than a cumulative total of 15 minutes face-to-face contact, or the sharing of a closed space for more than two hours, with a confirmed case during their infectious period. This infectious period commences:

  • 48 hours prior to the onset of first symptoms, or 
  • 48 hours prior to a person’s positive test date where they have had no symptoms, and ends when the confirmed case is no longer considered infectious.

There may be other staff identified as close contacts by DHHS as a result of interviews. More information is available on the DHHS Quarantine and Isolation webpage.

Q. What are disability service providers cleaning requirements in an outbreak?

Providers should follow the cleaning advice for confirmed cases in the 'Coronavirus (COVID-19) Plan for the disability services sector'.

The Public Health Outbreak Management Team may provide additional advice about further cleaning or infection control actions required in particular outbreaks.

NDIS participants in Victoria who have a support worker who tests positive can access a professional deep clean through their NDIS funding. See the NDIS Providers Coronavirus webpage.

Q. Should Services be setting up backup arrangements with nursing organisations, or will the Disability Rapid Response Group (DRRG) do this?

Services are encouraged to plan how they will maintain services in the event of an outbreak. This should include consideration of back up staff from within the organisation or, where necessary, nursing staff to provide additional support. The DRRG can assist in reviewing the arrangements that are in place in the event of an outbreak and offer advice to the service.

25 September 2020

Q. If due to behaviours and/or cognitive impairment a person refuses to wear a mask are they not allowed out in the community?

People with a disability must wear a face covering unless it is unsuitable to do so for medical, physical, communication or other risk factors. If a person with disability is unable to wear a face covering, they can still go out in the community but should take extra care to maintain physical distancing from others. Please see resources for people with disability for badges that a person may choose to wear to indicate their exemption.

14 August 2020

Q. Where can I find authoritative, up-to-date information about wearing face coverings in Victoria?

From 11:59pm on Sunday 2 August 2020, all Victorians must wear a face covering when they leave home, no matter where they live. There are lawful reasons for not wearing a face covering. 

Detailed information about face coverings, including commonly asked questions and answers, is available on the DHHS face coverings webpage.

Please note the information above is targeted at the entire Victorian population. There are additional and specific occupational personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements for disability services and disability workers, and health services and professionals.

Q. Do residents of disability residential services need to wear face coverings at all times?

The requirement to wear face coverings applies when people are outside of their home for one of the four reasons. It does not apply to residents while they are in the residential service. It does apply to the facility’s staff and visitors inside the facility and when a resident leaves the facility for one of the four reasons.

Q. Does a person need to wear a face covering when I am providing support to them?

People with disability do not need to wear a face covering when they are at home. It is preferable that people do wear a mask when their support worker is assisting them, but they may choose not to do this if they feel more comfortable.

Q. Where can I find easy to read information about wearing a face covering to assist my clients to understand the requirements?

Easy read information to help you and your clients understand the face covering requirements can be found on the DHHS Information for people with disability - coronavirus webpage.

Q. Where can I find information about the free reusable face coverings the Victorian Government is making available to vulnerable Victorians?

Because all Victorians are required to wear a face covering when leaving home, we have made reusable face coverings freely available to vulnerable Victorians who are least likely to be able to afford or access them.

We have made these available to vulnerable Victorians through local networks of health services and community organisations, including disability services.

It is important not to confuse this initiative with specific occupational personal protective equipment requirements that apply to disability services and disability support workers, and health services and health professionals.

Further information about reusable face coverings for vulnerable Victorians is available on the DHHS reusable face masks webpage.

13 August 2020

Q. If due to behaviours and/or cognitive impairment a person refuses to wear a mask are they not allowed out in the community?

People with a disability must wear a face covering unless it is unsuitable to do so for medical, physical, communication or other risk factors. If a person with disability is unable to wear a face covering, they can still go out in the community but should take extra care to maintain physical distancing from others.

14 August 2020

Q. How can I organise in-home testing for people in living in the community?

The Department of Health and Human Services is assisting vulnerable Victorians with in-home testing to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). At the moment this service is only available in metropolitan Melbourne.

Access to the Call-to-Test service will be available to individuals who have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms and meet the following criteria:

  • people with an injury, chronic health issue, or frailty affecting mobility
  • people with moderate to severe physical or psychosocial disability
  • people with moderate to severe mental health or behavioural issues not otherwise classified as a psychosocial disability
  • carers for a person with moderate to severe disability.

People without symptoms may be eligible if they have been identified by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) as being a close contact, have received direction from DHHS to be tested, and meet any of the criteria detailed above.

People will need to obtain a General Practitioner (GP) referral for a coronavirus (COVID-19) test to access the service unless they have been directed by DHHS to get a test, as well as demonstrate that they are not able to access existing testing sites through family or community supports. The operator will discuss available options and support you through the process. Call the coronavirus (COVID-19) hotline on 1800 675 398 and select option 9 to discuss eligibility for this service.

Further information about the Call-to-Test initiative is available on the DHHS website.

Q. How can I organise testing for a disability residential service?

The department can organise in-home testing for residents of disability residential services where there has been a close contact with a person who has tested positive for coronavirus. To access this service contact the for more information and for a copy of the referral form that is required to access this service. Once the referral form is completed it will take approximately 24 hours before testing can be arranged.

Please note all residents will need a printed GP referral for testing before the nurses can take the test.

Q. Can I organise priority processing for staff and residents of disability residential services?

Testing is a critical part of managing outbreaks of coronavirus (COVID-19), especially in disability residential services. Making sure coronavirus (COVID-19) tests are processed quickly means that people with coronavirus (COVID-19) can be identified and treated as soon as possible.

Staff and residents of disability residential services who have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are considered a high priority when it comes to testing for coronavirus (COVID-19). This means the tests will be processed quickly and the results will be returned within 24 to 48 hours.

Priority 1 – outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) in a disability setting

Always let the health worker taking the test know if the resident or staff member has any, even mild symptoms and has been in close contact with another resident or staff member with a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19). The test sample should be labelled as OUTBREAK PRIORITY (P1).

Priority 3 – disability residential services are a priority

Always let the health worker taking the test know if a resident or staff member has any, even mild symptoms but has NOT been in close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19). The test sample should be identified as PRIORITY P3 - AT RISK SETTING.

Q. Are saliva tests available for people who do not find it easy to be swab tested?

Swab testing of the throat and nose is very threatening for some people. There are a range of things that might help in the situation. For example, testing might be done at home if going to a test site will make the testing more difficult.

Health care workers can also assist disability workers to conduct the test if that makes it less stressful for the person being tested. A saliva test may be an option in some circumstances, however, it is less accurate than swab testing and it not always appropriate. Sometimes it is best to assume there is a positive result and respond accordingly.

In situations where there is a need to test someone with a disability who will find the test difficult, contact the department for advice on the best options for the circumstances.

14 August 2020

Q. What are the visitor guidelines for disability residential services?

Restrictions on visiting residents of care facilities, including aged care and disability accommodation have been significantly strengthened under the Care Facilities Directions.

The only people permitted to enter care facilities are residents, workers and some visitors.

One parent, guardian or carer can travel to visit a child under 18 years of age in a care facility at a time, and a resident over 18 years, for emotional and social support, once a day, and only for one hour at a time. For residents over 18 years, visits can occur when support cannot be provided through electronic or non-contact means.

Visits may also be made for essential care and support where this support is to optimise support provided in the care facility and where this support cannot be provided by electronic or non-contact means.

People may travel outside a 5km radius from home for these purposes.

Most disability accommodation facilities have limited space for ensuring appropriate social distancing between residents, house staff, other workers and visitors. Providers must balance the need for social distancing and delivery of essential supports with requests for visits necessary for the person’s well-being. On this basis, visits should be scheduled and should adhere to social distance guidance information that can be found on the DHHS Coronavirus transmission reduction measures webpage.

To maintain the safety of residents, staff and visitors, disability service providers, NDIS providers or their representatives may need to:

  • Determine whether the purpose of a person’s visit or prospective visit meets the criteria described
  • Set limits on the duration of an essential care visit to ensure the duration is no longer than required to provide the support
  • Determine whether the visit could be provided by that person through electronic or non-contact means.

Visitors are required to practice social distancing, including maintaining a distance of at least 1.5 metres at all times and wear face masks when visiting disability accommodation.

Q. Do restrictions in a care facility override other general Stage 4 restrictions, e.g. no visitors, no outings for residents?

The Care Facility Directions must be read in conjunction with the Stay at Home (Restricted Area) Directions for Melbourne (Stage 4) and other areas of Victoria (Stage 3) with regard to other limitations on visitors and reasons for leaving home, times and distance. The Care Facilities Direction do not limit residents leaving the disability residential service. Residents can leave for one of the four reasons outlined in the applicable Stay at Home Directions.

Further information is available on the DHHS Disability services sector - Coronavirus webpage.

Q. Families wanting to visit group homes, with requests to take their family member home with them for a few days...any guidance there, please?

Where possible, phone or video calls should be made available to all residents to enable more regular communication with family members and encourage family and friends to maintain contact with residents by phone and social media as appropriate. Facilitation of communication over electronic means should also be enabled for residents wishing to connect with external service providers.

These considerations also apply in situations where families wish to take resident family members home for short breaks.

The Stay at Home restrictions apply to people who have more than one ordinary place of residence and move between residences. The directions require that people do not move between their ordinary residences unless specific exemptions apply. These include work or education, in emergencies and to meet obligations in relation to shared parenting arrangements or family contact arrangements, whether the arrangements are under a court order or otherwise.

See Care Facilities – Supplementary information for disability services fact sheet which outlines restrictions on visits to disability accommodation under the Care Facilities Directions. The information is available on the DHHS Disability services sector - Coronavirus webpage.

4 August 2020

Q. Can families travel to visit their son or daughter in an SDA if it is more than 5km away?

Yes. However, families should consider whether the visit is necessary and can be provided remotely. Under the Care Facilities Directions, only one person may visit per day for a maximum of one hour.

14 August 2020

Q. Can you explain worker permits for essential workers?

Increased restrictions under Stage 4 – Stay at Home Directions have been introduced to limit the number of people leaving their home and moving around the Victorian community, including attending work premises. These restrictions aim to reduce the frequency and scale of COVID-19 outbreaks across the state.

The Permitted Worker Permit Scheme, established under the Permitted Worker Directions, allows permitted services to operate during Stage 4 restrictions in the Melbourne area.

The Workplace Directions aim to limit the number of Victorians attending work premises and to establish more specific obligations on employers and workers to manage the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks. These directions apply to both Stage 3 (non-Melbourne) and Stage 4 (Melbourne) areas.

Both state and NDIS funded providers have a responsibility to comply with the Permitted Worker Scheme Directions and Workplace Directions of the Chief Health Officer for the management and control of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Community services and necessary support services that enable their functioning, including disability residential and disability support services, are permitted to continue operating.

A permit is required for every worker attending a worksite to undertake permitted workplace activities. This includes all disability support workers. There are no exemptions for community services including disability services.

A disability service provider as an employer is responsible for issuing a Permitted Worker Permit to all workers and staff required to attend a worksite.

Disability service providers should nominate appropriate staff to undertake this role and note that the nominated staff members may need to be contacted to verify the working arrangements of staff.

Sole providers must issue and sign a worker permit as both employer and employee.

Workers must carry the worker permit together with photo identification when travelling to and from work. A permitted worker permit can be shown electronically to authorities such as a photo, or scanned copy, on a mobile device. The permitted worker template will demonstrate that the worker is working in a permitted industry.

Disability service providers must also consider what is an essential service and whether a service activity needs to be provided on-site or can be provided remotely. The template for the permit is available on the DHHS website.

Q. Can you explain the Workplace Directions?

The Workplace Directions are intended to supplement any obligations an employer may have under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.

A disability service provider, as an employer, must not require or permit a worker to work at a worksite where it is reasonably practical for the worker to work from home. This is a requirement for both Melbourne and non-Melbourne areas.

For services operating in the Melbourne area, disability service providers must comply with the Permitted Worker Scheme requirements.

While activities may be permitted, it’s also important that consideration is given to whether on-site activities can be delivered remotely as far as possible, and whether the on-site activity is essential for the health, safety or wellbeing of people with disability.

In requiring a worker to attend a worksite, the disability service provider must implement preventative measures to reduce the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak at the worksite.

Where this is the case, an employer must demonstrate what systems have been put in place to minimise movement across worksites.

If a worker is working at more than one worksite for two or more different employers:

  • the worker must provide a written declaration to each employer advising they are working at more than one worksite and providing details of the other worksite to each employer, and
  • each employer must maintain a record of all workers who have disclosed to the employer that they are working across more than one worksite.

The Workforce Directions [PDF] are available on the DHHS website.

Q. What about specific requirements for disability service providers?

Specific requirements around workforce restrictions for disability service providers are provided in the Workforce Restrictions – Coronavirus (COVID-19) fact sheet for disability service providers available on the DHHS Disability services sector - Coronavirus webpage.

Reducing work across multiple sites

Workplace Directions require that employers must not permit workers to work across multiple sites.

The direction notes a worker can work across sites where it is not practicable to limit a worker to only one site, including, for example, health care and social care workers.

Where this is the case, an employer must demonstrate what systems have been put in place to minimise movement across worksites.

If a worker continues to work across multiple worksites, the worker has an obligation to provide written details of each worksite attended to the employer at each site, if different.

Employers must maintain a record of all worker movements across multiple worksites.

The Department of Health and Human Services is working together with the NDIA, service providers and unions to address potential challenges for the sector in reducing worker mobility.

Q. What is available to support workers who must isolate?

The Pandemic Disaster Leave Payment is a $1,500 allowance for workers who are unable to earn an income because they must self-isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19. To get this payment, all of the following must apply:

  • you’re at least 17 years old
  • you live in Victoria
  • you have no income from paid work, including sick leave entitlements.

In addition, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services must also have told you to self-isolate or quarantine. Further information is available on the Services Australia Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment for Victoria webpage.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Test isolation Payment of $300 is available for those who are unable to earn an income because they must isolate while waiting for a COVID-19 test result. To be eligible for the $300 Coronavirus (COVID-19) Test Isolation Payment, you must:

  • be 17 years and over
  • have been tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) or be the guardian or carer of someone who has been tested
  • live in Victoria
  • be likely to have worked during the self-isolation period and unable to work due to:
  • a requirement to self-isolate after the test
  • a requirement to stay in isolation to care for someone who is required to self-isolate
  • not receive income or salary during self-isolation
  • have exhausted sick and/or carers leave entitlements, including special pandemic leave, or have no entitlement to such leave
  • not be receiving Australian Government income support such as the Jobseeker payment, or be an employee subject to the JobKeeper payment.

Further information is available on the DHHS Coronavirus Test isolation payment webpage.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Emergency Accommodation program - ‘Hotels for Heroes’ - supports frontline workers, including those in the frontline of disability supported accommodation, who are required to quarantine or self-isolate, should they be unable to do so in their home and if they meet the eligibility criteria for emergency accommodation. Further information is available on the DHHS Help and support for healthcare workers - Coronavirus webpage.

Q. There has been talk about independent contractors, like cleaners or independent Support Workers, applying to the government for identification cards to allow to travel outside their 5km radius from their home or during the curfew - what is happening with that and how long until this is available?

Independent support workers/contractors providing an essential service that cannot be provided remotely, and is essential to the daily living support of a person may apply for and sign a Permitted Worker Scheme permit.

Refer to the Workforce restrictions factsheet and online permit guidance available on the DHHS permitted worker scheme webpage.

4 August 2020

Q. If a support worker takes a client out for exercise for one hour, can the support worker still do his/her own personal exercise for one hour?

Yes, the worker is working when he/she takes the client out for exercise. The worker is still able to leave his/her home on the same day for their own exercise.

25 November 2020

Q. When staff return to work, how does an organisation go about cleaning bathrooms between use to ensure the virus is not spread within the workplace?

Bathrooms should be included in the routine cleaning schedule. The frequency of cleaning high touch and minimally touched surfaces should be determined by the number of individuals who use it during the day.

When there is community transmission of COVID-19, you should revise the schedule to include more frequent cleaning (minimum of twice per day) of the high touch surfaces such as taps, door handles, soap dispensers etc.

DHHS has recently published environmental cleaning guidelines and a series of factsheets

Coronavirus (COVID-19) cleaning guidelines for workplaces [Word]
Factsheet – cleaning workforce [Word]
Factsheet – cleaning supervisors [Word]
Factsheet – cleaning guidelines [Word] 

13 August 2020

Q. Is a client’s home regarded as a ‘work premises’ under the Workplace Directions?

No. A client’s home is not a work premises. The glossary description of ‘work premises’ in the Workplace Directions states.

Work Premises means the premises of an employer in which work is undertaken, including any vehicle whilst being used for work purposes; and

Note: this includes a community facility such as a community centre or community hall, or a public library, or a place of worship.

Work premises (for the purpose of the Directions) does not include premises, such as a person’s private home, a supermarket, a medical centre etc where a disability support worker may be providing support. This is because these are not the premises of the employer. However, employers still have obligations to ensure the safety of staff while working outside the employer’s premises. A number of the workplace directions are still relevant to work outside a provider’s premises, for example requirements for PPE, the keeping of rosters, working from home where possible, having a Covid Safe Plan, restricting the number of sites a worker attends, etc. The directions recognise that due to the nature of some work, people may need to work across different settings.

Contact information

For any enquiries, please contact Sarah Fordyce, Acting State Manager Victoria, 03 8341 4303,