The Government is now operating in accordance with the Caretaker Conventions pending the outcome of the 2022 federal election.

Managing home care through COVID-19

Home care package providers need to respond to changing circumstances to effectively manage COVID-19 risks to their care recipients and staff. This page has information and links to resources to help providers navigate the impacts of COVID-19 in their communities.

As Australia moves towards 'opening up', home care providers need to ensure their organisation:

  • continues to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19
  • is ready should an outbreak occur among care recipients or staff.

Bookmark this page and check regularly for up-to-date guidance on managing COVID-19 in the home care sector.

Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) may find this page helpful, but should refer to Information for CHSP service providers for specific guidance.

Following state and territory public health orders

State and territory governments are regularly updating their public health orders in response to changing circumstances in the community.

Home care providers and staff must adhere to all public health orders issued by the relevant state or territory government, including vaccination and testing requirements, and isolation protocols for close contacts and positive cases.

The local public health unit (PHU) can provide specific advice relevant to each state or territory, and providers should familiarise themselves with their relevant state or territory website.

COVIDSafe planning

Home care providers are responsible for delivering quality and safe care to senior Australians, even during outbreaks of COVID-19.

Home care providers must have a COVIDSafe Plan that they review and update regularly, especially when restrictions or public health advice changes. A COVIDSafe Plan should outline what control measures a provider will implement to eliminate or minimise the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the health and safety of their workers, care recipients and others in their workplace. The workplace for home care providers includes care recipients’ homes.

Security of Tenure requirements

Home Care Package (HCP) providers are bound by Security of Tenure requirements and must deliver the agreed care and services for as long as the care recipient needs those services (see Section 17 of the User Rights Principles 2014).

Delivery of in-home aged care services that are necessary for the health and safety of care recipients must continue:

  • where it is safe to do so
  • in line with the relevant state or territory public health order.

A provider may not withdraw services, even if the care recipient:

  • is in lockdown
  • is in quarantine or isolation
  • has tested positive for COVID-19
  • is unvaccinated or will not disclose their vaccination status
  • refuses a COVID-19 test.

In extenuating circumstances, where a provider cannot continue to provide services to a care recipient, the HCP provider must continue to provide HCP services in a COVIDSafe manner until the affected care recipient is transitioned to another provider willing and able to accept them.

Providers may only pause or stop delivering home care where they meet the requirements under the User Rights Principles 2014. For more information on security of tenure, providers can refer to the Home Care Packages Program Operational Manual: A Guide for Home Care Providers.

Workforce planning

Home care providers should develop and document plans to mitigate risk from events that could impact on staffing. This may involve finding alternative workers to support care recipients.

Home care providers should not support workers to attend work if they feel unwell. Providers should monitor staff and care recipients for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and follow the testing requirements set out by each state and territory.

Where a provider or service has staffing shortages due to COVID-19, providers can:

  • prioritise delivering services that are necessary for the health and safety of care recipients
  • seek assistance from other nearby organisations that can sub-contract workers to deliver services
  • put emergency care plans in place for each care recipient that documents how services will be delivered, including if a family member or carer can deliver some services for a short period.

Updated interim guidance for managing aged care workforce impacted by COVID-19

The Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, has approved an update to the Interim Guidance to support safe assessment and decision making when determining whether to place work restrictions on aged care workers.

This guidance follows the updated advice on the definition of contacts issued by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC). This guidance has been endorsed by both National Cabinet and AHPPC. The changes should assist in managing the aged care workforce, noting the challenges many providers are facing given the increasing number of cases in the community.

All providers are encouraged to familiarise themselves with this guidance and consider its application, noting local PHUs may implement additional requirements above those set out here.

Emergency care plans

Home care providers should have an emergency care plan in place for all care recipients. Providers may put emergency care plans in place where:

  • it is not safe to deliver some services, or
  • if they cannot do so in line with state or territory public health orders.

Emergency care plans do not need to be a separate document from the home care plan. They can be developed as part of the usual home care plan.

Public health orders usually allow for the delivery of personal care and nursing service, even if a care recipient is:

  • in isolation or quarantine, or
  • has tested positive to COVID-19.

Home care providers are responsible for supporting care recipients access alternative care arrangements if needed. Providers may not stop services without arranging an alternative model of delivery.

Home care providers should ensure all care recipient details are up to date including emergency contacts and current GP.

Home care providers should work with the care recipient, their family, and their GP or other health practitioners to discuss the plan. Discussions should include what circumstances would trigger the plan's use before an emergency.

Developing an emergency care plan with care recipients can be incorporated into the usual care management planning discussions.

When developing an emergency care plan, providers should consider:

  • Reviewing clinical governance processes and developing plans with local doctors and other primary care professionals for agreed processes if there is a change in a care recipient’s care needs.
  • Short term adjustments to ensure critical services, such as personal care and nursing, continue even if others temporarily stop.
  • If a care recipient lives alone or with their carer and whether the care recipient’s carer can take on more responsibilities for a short period.
  • How to conduct welfare checks if a care recipient is receiving less frequent services or has paused their services completely, such as connecting care recipients to Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) and other networks that can assist in monitoring their welfare.
  • The use of appropriate PPE to minimise the risk of transmission.
  • Emergency Respite options.
  • Current protocols and logistics for accessing local hospital services if needed
  • Providing care recipients and their family members or representatives with a phone number to call if there is any change to the care recipient’s health condition or circumstances. This number must be monitored by a staff member with the capacity to provide advice, assess risk, and notify relevant parties. Changes to condition or circumstance might include:
    • if they are in self-isolation
    • have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case
    • develop symptoms suggestive of COVID-19.

If home care providers need financial support to cover additional costs incurred due to COVID-19, the Government has several grant opportunities to support home care providers.

When a care recipient has COVID-19 or is a close contact

Providers should always monitor care recipients for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and follow the testing requirements set out by each state and territory.

HCP providers who have been directly impacted by COVID-19 (have staff or care recipients who have tested positive to COVID-19 or are in isolation due to COVID-19 exposure) may be eligible to apply for the COVID-19 Aged Care Support Program Extension grant (GO4863). This grant reimburses approved aged care providers for eligible expenditure incurred in managing the direct impacts of COVID‑19. For more information, see the Grant Opportunity Guidelines and Frequently Asked Questions on GrantConnect.

Home care providers are responsible for notifying and communicating with their local PHU and the Commonwealth Department of Health (by emailing agedcareCOVIDcases [at] health.gov.au) of any positive cases. Where available, PHUs will consider applying a process of monitoring and evaluation locally, in line with jurisdictional requirements. 

State or territory public health orders will specify what services can be delivered when someone is in quarantine or isolation. This will usually include personal care and health services. Home care providers can contact the local PHU for specific advice or go to the relevant state or territory website.

Home care providers should have an emergency care plan for each care recipient. This can include alternative models of delivery if required. Home care providers are responsible for supporting care recipients access alternative care arrangements if needed.

When a care recipient is in quarantine or isolation, such as when awaiting test results or after being identified as a close contact of COVID-19 case, home care providers should:

  • minimise the number of staff who come into contact with the care recipient
  • consider which services are critical to keep the care recipient safe.

When entering the home or room of a person in quarantine or isolation, staff need to follow Infection control guidance, including advice on when and how to use PPE.

If the care recipient’s condition deteriorates, staff should escalate to the care recipient’s GP or call an ambulance.

Infection prevention and control (IPC) and personal protective equipment (PPE)

Aged care providers can request emergency PPE supplies from the National Medical Stockpile by applying online through the Department's Consultation Hub.

The Infection Control Expert Group (ICEG) have provided ICEG-endorsed infection control guidance.

The Department of Health has free COVID-19 infection control training available online.

The Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) have developed national guidelines for the prevention, control and public health management of COVID-19 outbreaks in residential care facilities in Australia. While there are no national guidelines for home care, these guidelines can be adapted for the in-home aged care sector.

Rapid antigen tests (RAT)

The Government is taking action to ensure adequate supply of rapid antigen tests (RAT) for the community including those providing and receiving in-home care. The Government continues to assess the need for additional measures for high risk groups in light of the current Omicron variant outbreak.

Using RAT kits tests to support in-home aged care?

Providers should outline in their COVIDSafe plan how they will determine who is to receive testing, how often and under what circumstances.

Where home care workers are undergoing surveillance testing, they should not be tested more than once a day. Workers cannot be asked to take a test each time they enter a person’s home. In lower risk jurisdictions, providers may choose to test workers every 72 hours or two to three times a week instead of every day. Providers should continue to support workers and care recipients to receive a test if they have symptoms or are identified as a close contact.

Workers may wish to take a time stamped photo of their negative RAT result each day. Workers should not carry the negative RAT with them to the homes of care recipients as the results will deteriorate throughout the day.

Similarly, where care recipients agree to testing as part of COVIDSafe Plans, testing should be risk based and not occur more than once a day. Providers cannot withdraw care from care recipients if they refuse to undergo COVID-19 testing (see Security of Tenure requirements above).

Can care recipients ask for workers to be tested before entering their home?

The Department of Health is supporting providers to ensure the quality and safety of care through access to vaccination, testing and PPE.

The Department does not require surveillance testing for in-home and community aged care workers. However, providers must follow any public health orders or work health and safety laws in their state or territory. Providers should also consider how they are meeting their responsibilities to ensure quality and safe care for all care recipients.

The Department is advising care recipients that they have a right under the Aged Care Charter of Rights to change providers if they do not feel they are getting safe care.

COVID-19 and fringe benefits tax

The Government announced on 7 February 2022 that they will ensure COVID-19 testing expenses are tax deductible for testing taken to attend a place of work.

This will also mean fringe benefits tax (FBT) will not be incurred by employers if they provide COVID-19 tests to their employees for this purpose.

This measure is not yet law. The Australian Tax Office (ATO)  will provide more detailed advice and guidance once the measure is enacted.

In the interim, if providers have incurred expenses for COVID-19 tests, they should keep a record of those expenses.

Can providers access support to pay for RAT kits for workers?

Home care providers who choose to test home care workers as part of their COVIDSafe plan can access support to cover the costs of purchasing RAT kits for this purpose. This includes supplying RAT kits to workers providing care to self-managed care recipients. Responsibility for the supply of RAT kits and oversight of testing for workers should sit with the provider, not the care recipient.

HCP providers who test home care workers can use HCP funds to purchase RAT kits for this purpose. CHSP providers may use grant funding or underspends to purchase RAT kits for this purpose. They may also seek additional grant funding to do so via the CHSP – Emergency support for COVID-19 grant opportunity (GO3877).

As a short-term measure, care management fees (client contributions for CHSP) may be temporarily increased to cover the costs of purchasing RAT kits for testing of home care workers. Providers must notify affected care recipients of the increased fee and give them an opportunity to opt out. Costs must be reasonable and justifiable.

HCP providers who have been directly impacted by COVID-19 (have staff or care recipients who have tested positive to COVID-19 or are in isolation due to COVID-19 exposure) may be eligible to apply for the  COVID-19 Aged Care Support Program Extension grant (GO4863). This grant reimburses approved aged care providers for eligible expenditure incurred in managing the direct impacts of COVID‑19. For more information, see the Grant Opportunity Guidelines and Frequently Asked Questions on GrantConnect.

Can providers use aged care funds to supply RAT kits to care recipients, their family members or other visitors?

HCP providers can supply RAT kits and PPE at cost to care recipients to support the safe delivery of aged care services. HCP providers may seek an increase in management fees to cover these costs (which spreads costs across all care recipients in the providers’ care) or may seek agreement to access HCP funds in the care recipient’s package budget for purchases made on their behalf. Care recipients may agree to pay additional fees if their HCP budget is already fully allocated.

If care recipients have purchased RAT kits out of pocket to support the safe delivery of aged care services, these may be reimbursed from their HCP budget, where there are sufficient funds.

The Department encourages care recipients and providers to discuss these issues and ensure all costs and services are agreed and documented in the care recipient’s home care agreement.

If a care recipient would like to purchase RAT kits for their personal use, they may be able to access RAT kits for free under the Government’s concessional access program.

If they are not a concession card holder, they will have to purchase RAT kits for personal use themselves. All Australians can also access free polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing if they have signs or symptoms of COVID-19 and may be able to access free RAT kits from their local testing sites if they meet their state or territory’s requirements.

Can providers test care recipients as part of their COVIDSafe Planning?

Providers can ask care recipients to undergo testing to eliminate or minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19. Providers should outline in their COVIDSafe plan how they will determine who is to receive testing, how often and under what circumstances. Providers should continue to support care recipients and workers to receive a test if they have symptoms or are identified as a close contact.

HCP providers cannot withdraw serviced if a care recipient refuses a COVID‑19 test. See Security of Tenure requirements above for further information.

Vaccinations

Home care providers should support and encourage all staff and care recipientsto get vaccinated against COVID-19 and other vaccine-preventable illnesses. Home care providers, workers and care recipients must adhere to any state or territory public health orders on COVID-19 vaccination and testing.

Booster doses are strongly recommended for both workers and care recipients – they are very important to give that extra immunity, particularly as the Omicron variant spreads.

Keep up-to-date with the latest:

Getting workers and care recipients vaccinated

Vaccination remains the most effective protection against hospitalisation and death from COVID-19.

If staff are not yet vaccinated, we strongly encourage them to organise COVID-19 vaccination as quickly and safely as possible. Home care providers can also encourage care recipients to receive their COVID-19 vaccination if they have not already been vaccinated.

In-home and community aged care workers can call the dedicated COVID-19 Helpline on 1800 020 080 (select option 4) for any questions about vaccination and for assistance on how to book an appointment.

Home care providers can assist care recipients and staff to understand how they can access a COVID-19 vaccination by sharing the COVID-19 vaccination in-home and community aged care infographic and fact sheet. This is available in 20 languages and has information for:

  • care recipients
  • families
  • representatives
  • volunteers
  • workers.

Home care providers can also share information sheets with staff, and care recipients and their representatives. These contain detailed, accurate information about COVID-19 vaccination:

These information sheets are available in other languages.

Vaccination requirements for staff and care recipients

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) has recommended mandating COVID-19 vaccination for in-home and community aged care workers nationally. As with the mandate for residential aged care workers, only very limited exemptions are recommended.

Please read the AHPPC’s statement on mandatory vaccination of in-home and community aged care workers.

The implementation of these requirements differ between jurisdictions depending on their public health legislation.

Some states and territories have commenced mandating booster vaccinations for aged care workers.

For more information see the relevant state or state or territory public health orders and directions.

Vaccination reporting requirements

All aged care providers must report weekly on the status of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Reporting on aged care worker COVID-19 booster doses will become mandatory in coming weeks.

Find out more on the webpage for mandatory vaccination reporting requirements.

Government support for providers and workers

All aged care providers  with a COVID-19 outbreak can access support. This includes:

  • dedicated case manager – home care providers should email the Department at agedcareCOVIDcases [at] health.gov.au if they have a case of COVID-19 amongst their staff or care recipients
  • personal protective equipment (PPE) – while providers are expected to have their own supplies of PPE, providers can request access to the National Medical Stockpile through the Department’s Consultation Hub
  • access to a surge workforce – temporary support is available on a case by case basis to assist providers unable to fill critical gaps due to staff infections, quarantine or isolation requirements. Providers' case manager can assist with access if required.

Find out more about options for Government support for providers and workers.

Financial supports for home care providers during COVID-19

There are financial supports available for providers to cover the costs of operating in COVID-19.

COVID-19 Aged Care Support Program Extension Grant (GO4863)

HCP providers who have been directly impacted by COVID-19 (have staff or care recipients who have tested positive to COVID-19 or are in isolation due to COVID-19 exposure) can apply for the COVID-19 Aged Care Support Program Extension grant (GO4863). This grant reimburses approved aged care providers for eligible expenditure incurred in managing the direct impacts of COVID‑19. For more information, see the Grant Opportunity Guidelines and Frequently Asked Questions on GrantConnect.

CHSP – Emergency support for COVID-19 (GO3877)

The CHSP – Emergency support for COVID-19 grant opportunity supports existing CHSP service providers to enable them to respond to unforeseen and exceptional circumstances that directly impact on existing service delivery arrangements that are beyond the control of the grant recipient.

Support for Aged Care Workers in COVID-19 (SACWIC) (GO4215)

The Support for Aged Care Workers in COVID-19 (SACWIC) grant opportunity is designed to assist approved Residential Aged Care providers, approved National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program (NATSIFACP) providers and approved Home Care providers to minimise the risk of infection to aged care workers, residents and other consumers of aged care service.

Home Care Packages Program COVID-19 Vaccination Support Grant (GO5216)

The Home Care Packages Program COVID-19 Vaccination Support Grant provides additional support to Home Care Package providers to increase COVID-19 vaccinations in the home care workforce and to submit accurate reports on the vaccination status of their workforce to the Government.

For more information on these grant opportunities, visit GrantConnect.

Resources

Publications and fact sheets

See the latest COVID-19 updates from the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

Advice for the aged care sector during COVID-19
Find up to date information and advice on COVID-19 for aged care providers, aged care workers and people who receive residential or home care.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) resources for health professionals, including aged care providers, pathology providers and health care managers

A collection of resources for health professionals, including aged care providers, pathology providers and health care managers, about coronavirus (COVID-19).

Webinars

Online training

A 30-minute online module – COVID-19 infection control training – is available for care workers across all health care settings. It includes training specific to aged care.

Other training modules include:

  • personal safety
  • families and visitors – residential care
  • families and visitors – in-home care
  • COVID-19 and aged care
  • outbreak management procedures
  • personal protective equipment
  • laundry
  • if you suspect a person has COVID-19.

These modules take 5 to 10 minutes each. You will receive an acknowledgement of completion certificate for each module.

This training is hosted on an external site, provided by our COVID-19 training partner Aspen Medical.

Register now

Staying informed

To stay up to date on aged care and COVID-19:

You can also read our COVID-19 advice for:

Australian Government WhatsApp channel for COVID-19

Join our COVID-19 WhatsApp channel to learn the latest on Australia's response to coronavirus (COVID-19). If you're already a WhatsApp user you can send a message to the channel to connect. If you don't have WhatsApp, download the app to join the channel.

Coronavirus Australia app

Stay up to date with official information and advice about the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. You can check your symptoms and get notified when urgent information and updates are published.

Last updated: 
13 April 2022

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