National COVID Update: Leave grants, vaccinations and winter preparation
What you need to know
- The Federal Government has announced grants for disability workers who have exhausted their leave and take time off after a positive COVID test, bringing them in line with aged care workers.
- Residential accommodation providers have been asked to support people with disabilities to receive their COVID-19 booster.
- The Department of Health has released a winter planning kit, advice and other resources to help providers prevent infections over the flu and COVID seasons.
Disability worker COVID-19 leave grant
The Federal Government has addressed provider concerns for COVID-19 leave payments to be extended to disability workers in high-risk settings who have exhausted their leave entitlements.
The Department of Social Services Disability Worker COVID-19 Leave Grant replaces the High-Risk Settings Pandemic Payment and matches funding available for aged care workers. The grant compensates providers who pay workers who have exhausted their leave entitlements if they can’t work after a COVID-19 positive result.
The grant payments, before tax and superannuation, are:
- $450 where a worker has lost at least eight hours but less than 20 hours of work
- $750 where the worker has lost 20 or more hours of work.
For providers to be eligible, workers must be permanent or casual employees delivering NDIS higher-risk support services, such as:
- high-intensity daily personal activities involving health-related supports
- community nursing care
- daily personal activities
- assistance with daily life tasks in a Group or Shared Living Arrangement.
The payment will be towards the costs of paid leave from 1 April to the end of this year. Disability providers and sole traders will be able to batch-claim grants in three-monthly cycles. There will be more on the claims process soon on Grant Connect. We will post a news update as soon as the details are available.
To assist claims for eligible workers, providers can check that the following evidence is being collected:
- payments made to a worker for leave because of COVID-19
- proof of a COVID-19 positive test result, such as a RAT or PCR (or statutory declaration if these have been lost or not available)
- evidence the worker had insufficient sick leave
- evidence of service bookings or equivalent.
Sole traders with an ABN delivering NDIS support should also document this evidence of eligibility.
Combined influenza and COVID-19 test kits
Providers who are restocking RAT kits may want to review their options now that tests that combine influenza and COVID-19 results are available. The Therapeutic Goods Administration website has a list of RAT products combining influenza and COVID-19.
COVID-19 In-reach booster vaccination guidance
The Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care are advising residential accommodation providers to support people with disabilities to receive their COVID-19 booster by the end of June 2023.
A person is eligible for a 2023 booster if it has been six months or more since their previous COVID-19 booster or positive COVID-19 test result, whichever was most recent.
Providers of disability accommodation should arrange vaccinations through appropriate channels, such as local general practitioners, pharmacies or other primary health providers.
Since February, GPs and pharmacies can receive incentive payments for delivering vaccinations off-site to disability accommodation.
You can also get help from Primary Health Networks (PHNs) across Australia, who will be contacting disability providers, giving priority to sites that previously received in-reach services for COVID-19 vaccinations. The PHNs will check disability provider vaccination plans for individuals and identify where in-reach services may be needed.
To support the uptake of COVID-19 booster vaccinations, a new video resource helps providers communicate with workers, families and people with disability. It features a discussion between Ricky Kremer from the Council for Intellectual Disability and Jo-Anne Hewett, CEO of Achieve Australia, about promoting COVID-19 vaccination for people with disability. It includes information to support individuals to make an informed choice, including whether to have the vaccination at home or at a clinic.
Disability provider winter planning stakeholder kit
The Department of Health and Aged Care has developed a winter planning stakeholder kit with information and resources to help disability providers communicate the continued importance of COVID-19 prevention as we go into winter.
The stakeholder kit includes links to videos and factsheets for people with disabilities and their families or carers.
Influenza vaccination guidance
Australian Health Authorities have advised that the 2022 resurgence of influenza is expected to continue in 2023. They, therefore, strongly encourage influenza vaccination for everyone, especially those most at risk, such as people with disabilities or chronic health conditions.
You can have an influenza vaccination at the same time as a COVID-19 booster.
Providers can promote influenza vaccination with workers and people with disabilities with the Getting Vaccinated against Influenza resource collection.
Other disability provider resources
The Department of Health and Aged Care has developed a useful resource for residential disability providers to control and manage respiratory infection outbreaks, including COVID-19 and influenza.
Finally, the Health Education Collaborative have developed a course with NDS that is tailored for providers: Maintaining safe and effective infection control in disability settings. It will give disability workers practical skills in infection prevention and control, especially in with people who may be immune compromised. For more details and costs, contact Heather McMinn at NDS.