Coronavirus (COVID-19): Frequently asked questions
This page contains the following information:
Where can I find information about COVID-19 and how it affects people?
- The Australian Government has a dedicated website containing the latest coronavirus (COVID-19) news, updates and advice from government agencies across Australia. This page is updated regularly.
- Visit your state or territory government's COVID-19 webpage for information on their response.
- The Australian Government Department of Health website contains useful up-to-date information on COVID-19 including ways to contact the Department of Health.
- State and territory Chief Health Officers have issued orders for each jurisdiction about people congregating and social distancing requirements which need to be followed.
- The Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer has also issued advice on hygiene, quarantining, self-isolation and infection control which providers and their workers need to follow.
- If you need information about coronavirus, call the National Coronavirus Helpline Line on 1800 020 080. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has published information for providers and participants on the NDIA website.
- Providers should check our COVID-19 information webpage and the NDIA website regularly for updates on COVID-19 issues.
What is the NDIS Commission doing to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic?
- We have created a dedicated Coronavirus (COVID-19) information webpage, which contains links to updates, training, alerts and other resources.
- We are also issuing alerts to registered providers with information about the impact of COVID-19, and reminders of their obligations to provide supports to NDIS participants in a safe and competent manner, including managing and mitigating risks to NDIS participants and making any changes to supports and services that are necessary to avoid risks. Any changes to a person's supports must always be made in consultation with them.
- Anyone wishing to receive our provider alerts with information to help providers meet their obligations to provide safe and quality services to people with disability can subscribe to receive the provider updates.
- We have also created a COVID-19 webpage for people with disability, containing links to information and resources including a COVID-19 fact sheet for NDIS participants. The fact sheet is also available in Easy Read and Auslan formats, and in 11 community languages.
- We are working closely with the NDIA, Department of Social Services and the Australian Government Department of Health so we all take a consistent approach to the information available to people with disability and support providers in a way that is based on the latest health information.
FAQs for participants, their families, friends and support workers
How can I limit the risk of contracting, or spreading, COVID-19?
- Find up-to-date information about COVID-19, including ways to minimise risk of infection on the Australian Government Department of Health website.
- If you need information about coronavirus, call the National Coronavirus Helpline Line on 1800 020 080. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Workers providing support to people with disability are being encouraged to complete the online infection control training issued by the Australian Government Department of Health.
- Although influenza (the flu) and COVID-19 are different, Australia is heading into the flu season, so we have reminded providers and participants of the importance of getting flu vaccinations. Flu vaccinations are critical to reducing the risk of serious health issues for many people with disability.
How is the NDIS Commission supporting NDIS participants?
- We understand you may be feeling anxious and concerned about your personal wellbeing and getting the support you need through the NDIS during the pandemic. We are working with NDIS providers so that they understand what they need to do to continue to support you.
- We have created a webpage for NDIS participants where you will find information about coronavirus (COVID-19), what you can do to look after yourself, and the ways we are working with NDIS providers to make sure they understand what they need to do to make sure you get the support you need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- We have also developed information for people with disability, including a fact sheet for participants with more information, including your rights, what you can expect from your NDIS providers, how to make a complaint, resources available from the NDIA, and where to find more information and resources about COVID-19. This fact sheet is also available in Easy Read and Auslan formats, and in 11 community languages.
How can I complain about the quality of safety of my NDIS supports and services?
- Whether or not your concerns relate to COVID-19, it is important to know that you can speak to us about your concerns. It is always okay to speak up.
- If you are in New South Wales, South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory, Queensland, Victoria or Tasmania you can make a complaint to us by:
- Phoning: 1800 035 544 (free call from landlines) or TTY 133 677. Interpreters can be arranged
- National Relay Service and ask for 1800 035 544
- Completing a complaint contact form.
- If you are in Western Australia, please continue to contact HADSCO to make a complaint until 30 November 2020.
What should I be doing in response to COVID-19?
- NDIS providers have obligations under the NDIS Code of Conduct and the NDIS Practice Standards as well as conditions of registration that relate to the delivery of safe, quality supports and services, and the management of risks associated with the supports provided to NDIS participants.
- You should consider how to prevent and manage the risk of infection to NDIS participants. We expect you to tailor services to ensure participants continue to receive safe supports that meet their needs. It is important to recognise the limitations that COVID-19 presents for some supports, such as activities using non-essential services which may no longer be available.
- You should take all reasonable action to continue to provide NDIS supports or services that are critical to the ongoing health, wellbeing and safety of people with disability while complying with state and territory Orders.
- Consider how you deliver supports to NDIS participants and manage risks presented by possible COVID-19 infection. This applies to workers and people you otherwise engage to deliver NDIS support.
- Review your practices, including business continuity plans, and update your advice to staff. This will allow you to continue to provide supports and services to participants, and reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
- Keep up-to-date with Australian Government Department of Health recommendations on how to respond should a staff member or NDIS participant displays symptoms.
- Workers should complete the infection control training issued by the Department of Health.
How do I know whether my NDIS service is considered an "essential service"?
- Unless your business has been defined as 'non-essential', you should continue to deliver services – taking into consideration any adjustments to reflect the other restrictions on community movement, social distancing and related measures, and what you need to do to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
- State and territory governments have issued Public Health Orders which set out what can or cannot be done considering community access, isolation and social distancing. These can be found at business.gov.au, and on state and territory health websites.
- You have an obligation to make sure that any support or service that is required by a person with disability to maintain their health, wellbeing and safety is continued to be provided. It is expected that the way in which some supports and services are delivered will need to change.
UPDATED What can I do to reduce risk of COVID-19 exposure to participants?
- Follow health advice on protecting staff and others available on the Australian Government Department of Health website. This information is updated regularly as the situation changes.
- Given that Australia is heading into the influenza (flu) season, which is expected to overlap with the current COVID-19 pandemic, we also remind you and your workers, and NDIS participants of the importance of getting flu vaccinations.
- Flu vaccinations are critical to reducing the risk of serious health issues for many people with disability. Providers supporting people to access flu vaccinations should arrange for these to be administered during mid to late April 2020.
- Develop plans to reduce the risk of participants' exposure to infection that are appropriate for the size of your business, and the type of supports or services you provide. For example, develop plans to manage hygiene and ensure the social distancing of your participants and your workers that are specific to the supports you deliver and where you deliver them.
NEW How can I best support NDIS participants to identify and manage COVID-19 risks?
- Consult participants on the development of any risk mitigation plans designed to minimise their potential exposure to COVID-19.
- Consider participants' communication preferences (e.g. appropriate language and format) when explaining any impacts the risk mitigation plans may have on the supports or services they receive during COVID-19.
- Support participants to engage with their support networks in making informed decisions about any changes to the supports or services they receive. For example, facilitate discussions with your participants' support coordinators, guardians or nominees when considering alternatives if community participation supports or services cannot be provided.
- Develop and communicate contingency plans that address potential or actual exposure to COVID-19. This planning should include how appropriate support will continue to be provided to any confirmed COVID-19 positive participants in a particular location, service environment and/or with particular levels of service complexity.
- Refer to the information sheet issued by the Department of Health for health care and residential care workers for assistance on minimising the risk of COVID-19 infection and contingency planning.
Do I need to follow social distancing advice?
- All NDIS providers and workers are encouraged to follow the Australian Government Department of Health advice on hygiene, quarantining, self-isolation, social distancing and infection control.
- State and territory governments have issued Orders which set out what can or cannot be done considering community access, isolation and social distancing. These can be found at business.gov.au.
- You should tailor services to ensure participants continue to receive quality services in line with business continuity plans in response to COVID-19 and, wherever possible, take into account the participant's plan, needs and choices.
Should I be using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)? How can I access it?
- Stocks of PPE are extremely limited globally. It's important that PPE is used when it is required in line with medical guidance.
- Guidance on when PPE should be used and how requests to access it when usual arrangements are no longer available, are set out in the provider alert we issued on 31 March 2020.
- NDIS providers and self-managing participants who use PPE as a usual part of their support arrangements should continue to access PPE through their usual means.
- A dedicated NDIS email address NDISCOVIDPPE@health.gov.au has been established with the National Medical Stockpile to assist providers and self-managing participants to apply for access to PPE if their usual means are no longer available, or you require access to PPE in line with the Chief Medical Officers instructions.
- Access to PPE will be prioritised:
- for NDIS providers who deliver personal care and other activities that require close physical contact
- where the participant has a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19.
How do I plan for business continuity?
- We issued a provider alert on 19 March 2020 containing practical information on planning and preparing for the possibility that your services may be disrupted due to COVID-19.
- The key points in this alert are:
- Have a business continuity plan – having and regularly reviewing a business continuity plan allows you to assess risks to your business, your staff, and the people you support, and have identified strategies to manage those risks in the event of a crisis.
- Know the NDIS participants you support – the extent to which NDIS participants rely on the supports you provide and the extent to which their health and safety may be impacted, should supports and services be disrupted.
- Communicate – ensure your workforce and the NDIS participants you support understand what you will do and how you will support them in the event of a crisis.
- Report – when you become aware of significant impacts on your ability to continue to provide services and support you need to advise the NDIS Commission.
Are supports to NDIS participants that help a person access employment impacted by COVID-19?
- NDIS participants may be funded for a broad range of supports based on the agreed goals in their plan. These may include funding for to assist a person to participate in work.
- All NDIS providers are required to provide supports in a safe and competent manner. We have provided advice on those obligations, including the obligations to regularly risk assess the operations and support provision environment. There is also a requirement to meet the laws of each state and territory where you operate. This includes Orders relating to particular workplaces that may continue operating during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the need to observe hygiene practices and social distancing in workplaces where working from home is not an option.
- NDIS participants can also decide whether they want to continue to receive certain supports during the pandemic period.
- Many NDIS providers are making adjustments to how they deliver supports and services to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to NDIS participants.
Do I need to tell the NDIS Commission if I can’t continue to provide supports?
- Yes. All registered providers must notify us of certain changes or events resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak, especially those that significantly affect your ability to continue to provide the supports and services you are registered to provide.
- You can notify us of COVID-19 related changes or events by filling out the Notification of event – COVID-19 (registered provider) form on our website.
- You must also notify us when other changes or events that are not related to COVID-19 significantly affect your ability to provide supports or services. You can do this in the NDIS Commission Portal.
Do I have to report incidents to the NDIS Commission during the pandemic?
- Yes. Existing obligations that registered providers notify us of all reportable incidents continue to apply during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- It is important that you continue to notify us and manage reportable incidents using the NDIS Commission Portal 'My Reportable Incidents' page.
What should I do if the services I provide need to change due to COVID-19?
- Notify us of changes or events that adversely affect your ability to deliver supports and services to NDIS participants, including any change or event that:
- significantly affects your ability to comply with registration conditions and the NDIS Practice Standards
- seriously impacts your ability to effectively conduct operations and deliver ongoing supports or services to NDIS participants
- adversely affects a person with disability's access to the supports or services you are registered to provide.
- Direct any questions about service payments to the NDIA by calling 1800 800 110.
How can I prepare new staff to work with people with disability?
- There may be a need for you to engage new staff, or reassign existing staff, due to COVID-19 service changes. It is important that you plan and prepare for the possibility of engaging new staff, ensuring that inductions are appropriate to set the expectations for working with the people with disability you support.
- Workforce induction planning might include:
- undertaking the NDIS Commission Worker Orientation Module
- ensuring staff have the appropriate competencies to deliver services and supports in accordance with the expectations of the NDIS Practice Standards.
- The Australian Government Department of Health has made available a 30-minute online training module for infection control for all support workers across all sectors.
I am due to go through an audit. Do I still need to have an audit?
- We have provided advice to approved auditors about our expectations in relation to the impact of COVID-19 on audit requirements. Contact your approved auditor to discuss how this advice applies to you.
- We have provided targeted advice to registered NDIS providers, including arrangements for varying conditions of registration where necessary to allow an extended period of time to complete the registration process, including audits.
I am a disability provider operating in Western Australia. Where can I get information about my quality and safeguarding obligations?
- The Department of Communities in Western Australia (WA) is responsible for ensuring that service providers operating in WA meet quality and safeguarding requirements. On 1 December 2020 the responsibility for registering and regulating providers will transition to the NDIS Commission.
- You can find further information about current NDIS quality and safeguarding arrangements at Quality and Safeguards Working Arrangement for transition to NDIS in Western Australia.
- WA specific information for NDIS providers about COVID-19 can be found on the Government of Western Australia Department of Communities website. This also has information in Easy Read formats for people with disability.
- The Department of Communities has established a dedicated phone line and email address for disability service providers operating in WA who are seeking urgent information and assistance as a result of COVID-19. Providers are encouraged to make use of this resource as required:
- Phone: (08) 6167 8777
- Email: DSProviderSupport@commuities.wa.gov.au