Protecting Older Australians – Advice for home and community aged care providers responding to emergencies

Flooding advice for aged care home and community providers.

Date published:
Subscriber announcement
Health sector

All aged care providers are required to continue to deliver appropriate care in accordance with their emergency risk management plan, their relevant aged care program, and to provide regular advice to staff, family and care recipients. Care recipient safety must be prioritised at all times.

To make sure appropriate support is provided as quickly as possible, all aged care providers, care recipients and their families or representatives must follow existing state and local government pathways to request help. If you are in a life-threatening situation, you should always call Triple Zero (000) for police, fire or ambulance.

  • In Victoria
    • The VicEmergency Hotline provides information during and after major incidents in Victoria. It also offers information to help householders, landowners and small businesses plan for and recover from emergencies. Call 1800 226 226.
    • Victoria State Emergency Service.
  • In Tasmania
  • In New South Wales
    • Liaise with local emergency services via Triple Zero (000) to determine the seriousness of any emergency situation and the level of risk posed to your facility and care recipients
    • Emergency services will then link in at the Local Health District level to prioritise and deliver supports.
  • In Queensland
    • Dial Triple Zero (000) for Police, Fire and Ambulance in an emergency
    • Qld State Emergency Services: SES app or 132 500 for help with a damaged roof, rising flood water, trees fallen on buildings, or storm damage
    • General enquiries: 13 QGOV (13 74 68).
  • In South Australia

These arrangements are well developed. Requesting assistance through these channels will ensure requests can be prioritised as part of whole of government response efforts.

In-home and community aged care providers

In an emergency, in-home and community aged care providers should continue to facilitate their care recipients to liaise with services that provide support including with:

  • My Aged Care to access support services such as meal providers
  • Services Australia on eligibility requirements to access disaster recovery payments (payment may be accessed due to major damage to the home)
  • State government emergency management support, their insurer and the Carer’s Gateway (for emergency respite).

Providers should:

  • have emergency plans in place for all care recipients:
    • staff should be aware of these plans and be able to implement them if regular staff or care recipients are impacted by an emergency
    • staff and care recipients should plan to access emergency support provided by the state/local government and/or emergency services in the first instance, for example, help with flood clean up or emergency accommodation.
  • undertake welfare checks and remain in regular contact with their care recipients, where possible
  • continue to deliver in-home and community services that are necessary for the health and safety of care recipients where it is safe to do so. Where a provider cannot continue to provide essential services to a care recipient, they should support the affected care recipient to receive services from another provider willing and able to provide these services, or from a higher needs care setting such as a residential aged care facility or hospital
  • review workforce management plans so you have options for sourcing surge workforce if you need it.

Home care package funding in an emergency

Where home care package recipients are seeking to use unspent funds to support clean-up of their home in a flood affected area, providers must ensure costs are not already covered by insurance and/or provided by state government emergency management services or that they could be funded under the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment.

The following costs may be able to be charged to a home care package:

  • cleaning services, including specialist cleaners
  • specialised cleaning equipment, and hire costs of such equipment
  • home maintenance that is reasonably required to maintain the home and garden in a condition of functional safety and provide an adequate level of security. For example, it may be reasonable for the provider to charge the package for an electrician to restore power especially if the care recipient requires electricity for medical aids and equipment, personal alarms
  • replacing modifications to the home, such as easy access taps, shower hose or bath rails
  • replacing or repairing aids, modifications and equipment to the home, such as easy access taps, shower hose or bath rails
  • short-term hire of appliances where the aged care needs/goals are listed in the care plan. For example, a refrigerator to store medication; and support to care recipient to access financial advice from Services Australia/state government assistance schemes should they need to purchase new whitegoods
  • transportation and/or accommodation costs in emergencies where it would ensure continuity of care for the care recipient. For accommodation, a judgement call would need to be made first on whether:
    • accommodation could first be arranged via the care recipient’s insurer or if care recipients could stay with family and friends
    • if not, in agreeing a timeframe with care recipients, providers could make a judgement that typically a residential respite stay is 63 days, with option to extend by 21 days – any longer than that is typically regarded as a permanent entry and permanent accommodation is a program exclusion
    • consideration to be given to impact on package budget - as it would be a poor outcome to pay for accommodation if a care recipient had options to stay with family or friends and in doing so, were left with insufficient funds for other care and services
    • consideration that the funding envelope available is only the subsidy payable for the month + balance of home care account/provider and care recipient held unspent funds (which will vary across care recipient/package level).

Please note that insurance premiums or excess payments cannot be charged to a home care package.

For record keeping purposes, providers should ensure they consider all requests in line with the ‘Inclusions/Exclusions Framework’ at Part 9 of the Home Care Packages Operational Program Manual.

Providers are encouraged to take a flexible and compassionate approach when considering the use of unspent funds for post flood clean-up expenses.

CHSP funding in an emergency

Access to emergency CHSP services

People seeking access to aged care services for the first time should contact My Aged Care to have a client record created and arrange for an assessment of their care needs. A client can be directly referred by My Aged Care to a CHSP service provider if they have a need for an immediate health or safety intervention that is not available through other means. The services where this is likely to happen include:

  • for a one-off or short-term intervention (such as nursing for wound care, transport to a specialist medical appointment or the delivery of meals, grocery shopping, personal care and other support services due to the absence of a carer) lasting no more than eight weeks
  • for a direct health or safety intervention that needs to occur before a face-to-face or telehealth assessment can take place.

My Aged Care is available on 1800 200 422 (free call) between 8:00am and 8:00pm on weekdays and between 10:00am and 2:00pm on Saturdays.

Access to urgent meals

My Aged Care can assist with access to basic food and groceries, and to prepared meal services which can be set up quickly for up to 8 weeks without the need for an aged care assessment if they are not already an existing client. My Aged Care can also refer directly to meals services in the local area.

CHSP clients accessing funding

Existing CHSP clients are unable to access funding through CHSP providers as providers are block grant funded and clients do not have access to packaged funds.

Where a CHSP client requires financial assistance, they should first contact their local council/state government/emergency management body for information about what immediate supports are available. A CHSP client can also contact their CHSP provider for additional assistance and the provider will be able to direct them to appropriate supports.

CHSP provider funding

CHSP providers are reminded to contact their Funding Arrangement Manager about any major disruptions to normal service delivery at their earliest opportunity.

CHSP providers can use their 100 per cent flexibility to urgently re-distribute funding to cover any additional service costs.

CHSP providers can also apply for emergency funding under the CHSP Ad Hoc Proposals (GrantConnect GO5672) grant funding opportunity as a response to an unforeseen and exceptional circumstance. Applications are open until 30 June 2023.

OPAN Wellbeing Checks

If you are concerned about your care recipient or family member's wellbeing during these extreme weather events, the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) is available to support older people.

To ensure older Australians are safe and healthy and are not missing out on services due to this challenging time, a referral program is available to Home Care and CHSP providers, or any concerned parties (with client consent to be contacted). The service is complementary to the work of home care providers in continuing to connect with the older Australians they assist.

You can contact OPAN on 1800 700 600 (free call), 8am-8pm Monday-Friday; 10am-4pm Saturday. More information can also be found on OPAN's website.

Department of Health and Aged Care state and territory emergency contacts

Aged care service providers can call the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care in their state or territory if they need help to find vacancies or resources to manage an emergency. You can find the relevant contact number for your state/territory on the Department's website