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Impact of COVID-19 on community and social services

Monday 23 March 2020 

Each week, the Victorian Council of Social Services (VCOSS) is producing a 'VCOSS COVID-19 Sector Update', which includes the latest high-level advice and resources relevant to the Victorian community sector. Suitable content from the update is also being posted, here. (The best place to access up-to-date health advice remains
 
Updates as at 23 March 2020, include:
 
ACTIVITY BAN

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced Stage 1 of a shutdown of non-essential activities across the state from midday today. The businesses that will close due to the Stage 1 shutdown include pubs, clubs, nightclubs, Crown Casino, and licensed venues in hotels and pubs. The autumn school holidays will also be brought forward, essentially shutting public schools from tomorrow. The government has acknowledged that there will be some confusion about these restrictions, and further details will be communicated over the coming days.

Commenting on this, VCOSS states: We believe the community sector must be exempt from any shutdown. The UK has done this. People working in child protection, disability support, family violence, homelessness, community health, residential care and dozens of other areas must be allowed to keep working. Crucially, this will take the pressure off mainstream health services so they can do their job combating the virus. Only by permitting all community service workers to keep helping people over the months ahead will we all get through these trying times. 

CARE PACKS

Victorians in mandatory self-isolation running short on food and unable to have any dropped-off by friends are now eligible for a "food and personal care package", with a two-weeks supply of items like long-life milk, pasta, canned fruit, cereal and sugar, as well as some personal care items. People wishing to request a pack should call Victoria’s dedicated Coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398

JOB MATCHING

VCOSS and the Victorian Trades Hall Council will be working with the Victorian Government to develop a scheme that matches people out of work with jobs that need doing during the pandemic. That might be hospitality workers helping feed people in isolation, or it could be factory workers helping clean trains and trams. The Victorian Government has announced $500 million to establish this Working for Victoria Fund.

FAQ — Is my service an essential service?

At this stage, businesses that will close due to the Stage 1 shutdown include pubs, clubs, nightclubs, Crown Casino, and licensed venues in hotels and pubs. It also includes gyms, indoor sporting venues, places of worship, cinemas and entertainment venues. Restaurants and cafes will only be allowed to provide home delivery or takeaway services.

Further closures may be announced in future, for other non-essential activities. The full list of essential services is not yet available. VCOSS is working closely with the Victorian Government to make sure community organisations are recognised as essential services and can continue to keep delivering services to vulnerable communities. VCOSS will circulate further information when possible.

VIC 'SURVIVAL PACKAGE'

The Victorian Government has announced a $1.7 billion economic survival and jobs package to help businesses and workers survive the impacts of the pandemic. Measures including full payroll tax refunds, applications for commercial rent relief, paying outstanding supplier invoices and waiving liquor licensing fees.

FEDERAL SUPPORT

Income support for individuals

Over the next six months, the Government is temporarily expanding eligibility to income support payments and establishing a new, time-limited Coronavirus supplement to be paid at a rate of $550 per fortnight. To be paid to both existing and new recipients of JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance Jobseeker, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit. Read more.

Payments to support households

The Government is providing two separate $750 payments to social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders. The first payment will be made from 31 March 2020 and the second payment will be made from 13 July 2020. Read more.

Temporary early release of superannuation

The Government is allowing individuals affected by the Coronavirus to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21. Read more.

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BOARD/GOVERNANCE IMPACTS

The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) has released fresh guidance of what organisations should do if they're struggling to hold regular board meetings of officially complete their Annual Information Statement. More details here.

FREE ONLINE INFECTION CONTROL TRAINING

The Federal Government is offering workers across the health, aged care, disability and childcare sectors access to a free online training module on infection control. This training module takes about 30 minutes to complete and covers the fundamentals of infection prevention and control (IPC) for COVID-19. 

ADVICE FOR LEGAL PROBLEMS

A range of legal problems are emerging following the rollout of measures such as quarantining people to limit the spread of the virus. Victoria Legal Aid can provide help over the phone 1300 792 387 (please note that there may have longer wait times). Advice can also be provided through a live webchat service here

ANSWERING KIDS' QUESTIONS

What is the Coronavirus? Can I have play dates and birthday parties? Can we help? The kids have questions! The Age has gathered them up and answered them in a way the young ones will understand. UNICEF Australia has also released 'Eight tips to help comfort and protect children.'

CORONA ADVOCACY

VCOSS doesn't have a formal view on school closures. However, it has been vocal highlighting the risks to certain groups of kids, parents, carers and families if schools were to be closed, even temporarily. Victoria needs a plan to look after everybody through this period. Read its VCOSS Issues Alert'Eight things to consider as we shut schools'.

With thanks to VCOSS for this invaluable resource - CSSV




 
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