Q. What is Challenge Community Services’ response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation?
Our Executive Leadership Team is meeting daily to closely monitor advice from Australian federal and state health authorities and will take appropriate actions based on this advice.
We are also in close communication with the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).
In line with evolving health guidelines, we have modified our work practices to help protect our staff and clients.
Current organisation-wide measures include:
- Applying increased hygiene standards for all clients, carers, staff and visitors to Challenge sites, with extra precautions for Supported Independent Living homes
- Limiting non-essential face-to-face contact in our workplaces, with some staff members working from home
- Ensuring staff who have returned from overseas or have been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case strictly adhere to self-isolation practices
- Conducting regular general health checks and supporting clients to seek medical assistance if necessary.
Q. Why has Challenge had to make changes to our services?
During these uncertain times, the health, safety and wellbeing of our clients, carers, children, young people and staff are our top priority. We are doing everything necessary to protect our clients and support our staff in their roles.
Keeping a physical distance from each other (social distancing) is critical to reducing the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. As a result, we have had to make some temporary modifications to the way we provide these services in line with government health directives.
Q. What changes have been made to services?
We had to make the tough decision to temporarily close our Day Program and Connexions services across New South Wales and Queensland.
Our Supported Independent Living services will continue as normal with additional precautions in line with government health guidelines. We will also continue to provide essential Drop-in Support and emergency Respite.
Our teams are contacting clients to complete welfare checks, and deliver pre-made meals to our clients. To protect clients and staff, we follow strict health protocols when providing Drop-in Support.
Q. What are the additional precautions for Supported Independent Living?
Our Supported Independent Living services are continuing as normal with the following additional health precautions:
- Strict hygiene procedures are in place
- All non-essential visitors and community outings have been restricted
- Additional funding has been provided to each house to ensure clients have activities to do inside the home
- Strict protocols, in line with Department of Health directives, are in place if a client contracts Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Levels of food and household items are monitored to ensure each home has adequate amounts to last 14 days if someone needs to self-isolate.
Q. When will these changes take effect?
The changes to our services listed in this communication came into effect at 9.00am Tuesday 24 March 2020.
Q. Why were these changes made so suddenly?
Unfortunately, we had no choice but to act quickly to comply with the rapidly evolving advice from Australian federal and state health authorities.
Non-essential gatherings of people now present too high a risk of spread of the infection in our communities. The decisions we have made are first and foremost to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of our clients and staff.
Q. When will services reopen and return to normal?
Unfortunately, it is not possible at this stage to predict when our temporarily closed services, such as Day Programs, will be able to re-open.
Q. How is the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) supporting providers?
We will be contacting our clients individually to discuss the following changes to NDIS price limits.
The NDIA will temporarily increase price limits by 10 per cent for the following critical supports, effective Wednesday 25 March 2020:
- Assistance with daily life (not including Supported Independent Living)
- Assistance with social and community participation
- Support for improved health and wellbeing (not including personal training)
- Support for improved daily living skills.
These changes will be in place for six months. The NDIA will review the changes in three months to assess whether it is appropriate to continue with the changes.
Q. How is the NDIS supporting participants?
If a participant has a scheduled plan review, the NDIA will contact them by phone or email to complete their review. This is an opportunity for participants to discuss putting a new plan in place for up to 24 months.
The NDIA will also be making changes to NDIS systems to make sure participants have the funding they need during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
To ensure participant plans don’t end on the day a plan is due to expire, the plan will be extended by 365 days. Previously the automatic plan extensions were for 28 days. NDIS participants do not need to take any action – the 365-day extension will be automatic.
For more information visit the NDIS Coronavirus Information and Support page here.
Q. What happens to staff when services temporarily close?
Our service staff have had to reduce their rostered hours to base contract hours while we try to find alternative employment opportunities within Challenge.
This decision was not taken lightly – our priority is to limit the medium to long-term economic impact on our staff.
Q. Will there be any more changes to Challenge services?
We expect that further advice from Australian federal and state health authorities will result in more changes to our services.
Our Executive Leadership Team will continue to monitor, and follow government advice. We will communicate any further changes to our clients and staff as soon as possible.
Q. I’m a staff member with more questions. Who can I talk to?
Please speak to the supervisor or manager of your service.
Q. Where can clients and families seek more information?
Please contact the supervisor from the services that you receive.
Updates on Challenge Community Services’ response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) are available on our website www.challengecommunity.org.au