Protecting older Australians: COVID-19 update 21 March 2020

Information about $444.6 million to strengthen workforce continuity, new visa arrangements, visit guidelines, new fact sheets for residential aged care workers, and visit restrictions for families and residents.

Date published:
Health sector

Today the Australian Government announced $444.6 million expected to strengthen the aged care industry, with specific mechanisms to reinforce the workforce.

We have 2 new fact sheets for residential aged care workers, and visit restrictions for families and residents.

Thank you for your continued support in protecting older Australians from COVID-19.

Measures to support senior Australians and those who care for them

The National Cabinet agreed on temporary funding to support aged care providers, residents, staff and families.

Building on the package of measures announced last week, additional funding of $444.6 million is expected to strengthen the industry, with specific mechanisms to reinforce the aged care workforce.

It will include:

  • $234.9 million for a COVID-19 ‘retention bonus’ to ensure the continuity of the workforce for aged care workers in both residential and home care:
    • this will mean a payment of up to $800 after tax per quarter — paid for 2 quarters — for direct care workers
    • two payments of up to $600 after tax per quarter — for 2 quarters — for those who provide care in the home
    • payments will be delivered to providers to pay their workers and part-time workers will be paid a pro-rata rate
  • $78.3 million in additional funding for residential care to support continuity of workforce supply
  • $26.9 million for a temporary 30 per cent increase to the Residential and Home Care Viability Supplements and the Homeless Supplement. This includes equivalent viability funding increases for National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program providers, Multi-Purpose Services and homeless providers
  • $92.2 million in additional support to home care providers and organisations which deliver the Commonwealth Home Support Programme, operating services including meals on wheels — this will include services for people in self-isolation such as shopping and meal delivery
  • $12.3 million to support the My Aged Care service to meet the surge in aged care specific COVID-19 enquiries, allowing for additional staff to minimise call wait times

Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians Richard Colbeck said these important measures offered a reinforced framework to ensure the sector would continue to support those we love most.

“As the transmission of COVID-19 increases rapidly, it is our priority to protect and support elderly and vulnerable Australians.” Minister Colbeck said. “Aged care is a critical sector that faces staffing challenges as existing staff are either subject to self-isolation requirements due to COVID-19 or are unable to attend work.

“We know we are asking a lot of this critical workforce as we face this unprecedented health emergency. Their work practices are changing — and today’s announcement is in recognition of this. The Government will continue to work with the sector to ensure we have the strongest possible workforce in place as we deal with this extraordinary health challenge.”

Minister Colbeck said guidelines for aged care facilities remained in place.

He said the care and wellbeing of senior Australians remained a priority in this uncertain time.

“We are facing an extraordinary health challenge and we need to work together to protect the Australians most vulnerable to COVID-19,” Minister Colbeck said. Our number one priority is to slow the spread of coronavirus to save lives.

“The Australian Government will continue to act on advice and update the sector as we face this challenge together.”

Accessing new student visa arrangements

On 18 March 2019, the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck, and the acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon Alan Tudge MP, jointly announced that providers of Australian Government-funded aged care services will temporarily be able to offer more hours to international students to ensure the care of senior and vulnerable Australians, as part of the campaign to combat the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Please find attached a ‘Letter of Comfort’ from the Department of Home Affairs which outlines this arrangement.

For further information about this temporary measure and what you need to do, please contact the Department of Home Affairs on 131 881 or email

A note on visit guidelines

Just a short note on applying the new guidelines on visitor access.

The guidelines include:

  • limiting visits to a short duration
  • limiting visits to a maximum of 2 visitors at 1 time per day — these may be immediate social supports (family members, close friends) or professional service or advocacy
  • visits should be conducted in a resident’s room, outdoors, or in a specific area designated by the RACF, rather than communal areas where the risk of transmission to residents is greater
  • no large group visits or gatherings, including social activities or entertainment, should be permitted at this time

No school groups of any size should be allowed to visit RACFs. Visitors should also be encouraged to practise social distancing practices where possible, including maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres.

Children aged 16 years or less must be permitted to visit only by exception, as they are generally unable to comply with hygiene measures. Exemptions can be assessed on a case-by-case basis; for example, where the resident is in palliative care.

In regards to the ‘professional services’ cohort we have been receiving some feedback that some clinical care professionals are being prevented from entering some facilities. Just a note to highlight the guidelines were designed specifically to allow ‘professional services’ — this of course includes general practitioners, pharmacists, clinical care teams, DBMAS, SBRT etc.

New fact sheets

Coming soon

  • Fact sheets for in-home care workers
  • Fact sheets translations
  • Further details on the Government’s $444.6 million workforce package
  • Live FAQs document
  • Personal protective equipment update
  • Rapid response teams where an urgent health response is required
  • Online training modules specific to aged care workers

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