As COVID-19 public health orders continue to change , HCP 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
Since 14 October 2022, most public health orders requiring people test for COVID-19 or isolate following a positive test have been removed for most settings. All people are still strongly encouraged to stay at home if they are unwell and isolate for at least 5 days if they test positive for COVID-19 and until they have no symptoms of COVID-19.
State and territory governments are regularly updating their public health orders in response to changing circumstances in the community.
HCP providers and staff must adhere to all public health orders issued by the relevant state or territory government, including vaccination and testing requirements.
Providers should familiarise themselves with their relevant state or territory website. The local public health unit (PHU) can provide specific advice relevant to each state or territory about caring for care recipients who test positive for COVID‑19.
HCP providers are responsible for delivering quality and safe care to older Australians, even during outbreaks of COVID-19. They 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.
HCP 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 with close personal care and support services provided is classed as a high-risk setting as it involves frequent close contact with care recipients.
Where staff have tested positive for COVID-19, it is recommended they not attend work for at least 7 days after testing positive and until they have no symptoms of COVID-19.
Aged care providers and workers are expected to maintain existing infection prevention and control measures including:
- All aged care workers should not attend work, and should stay at home, if they have respiratory symptoms to help prevent the spread.
- It is recommended that facilities continue to refer to CDNA guidance materials to underpin screening arrangements put in place, informed by local risk assessments.
- Workers who test positive for COVID-19 should not attend the workplace for at least 7 days, including those who provide close personal care to older people in their homes or the community.
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.
Infection prevention and control (IPC)
The Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) has developed national guidelines for the prevention, control and public health management of Acute Respiratory Illness (ARI) 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.
Each aged care provider is responsible for ensuring all aged care workers are trained in IPC. The Department of Health and Aged Care has free COVID-19 infection control training available online.
Emergency care plans
HCP providers should have an emergency care plan in place for all care recipients and include advice about different types of emergencies such as COVID-19 outbreaks, flood or bushfire. 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 or emergency directions such as road closures.
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.
HCP 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.
HCP providers should ensure all care recipient details are up to date including their 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
- whether 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
- 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 self-isolating
- have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case
- develop symptoms suggestive of COVID-19
- test positive to COVID-19.
Security of Tenure requirements
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 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.
When a care recipient has COVID-19 or has been in close contact with a known case
Providers should always monitor care recipients for signs and symptoms of COVID‑19 . HCP providers are responsible for notifying and communicating with their local PHU of any positive cases where required.
HCP providers should have an emergency care plan for each care recipient. This can include alternative models of delivery if required. HCP providers are responsible for supporting care recipients access alternative care arrangements if needed.
When a care recipient is isolating, such as when awaiting test results, after being identified as a close contact of COVID-19 case or testing positive to COVID-19, HCP 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 who has tested positive to COVID-19, staff need to follow infection control guidelines from CDNA on Acute Respiratory Illness 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.
Rapid antigen tests (RAT)
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?
HCP 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.
Can providers access support to pay for RAT kits for workers?
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 may use HCP funds to purchase RAT kits for this purpose.
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.
COVID-19 and fringe benefits tax
Some COVID-19 testing expenses are tax deductible when they relate to a person’s job or business. The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has information on fringe benefits tax (FBT) for businesses and tax deductions for workers who require COVID-19 testing to attend the workplace.
Can providers use aged care funds to supply RAT kits to care recipients, their family members or other visitors?
If HCP 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.
HCP providers can also 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 the price of care management to cover these costs (which spreads costs across all care recipients in the providers’ care) or may seek agreement from the care recipient 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.
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 state or territory government programs. Links to information from state and territory governments is below.
- New South Wales
- Australian Capital Territory
- Northern Territory
- South Australia
- Western Australia
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.
The Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) has developed national guidelines for the prevention, control and public health management of Acute Respiratory Illness (ARI) 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.
HCP providers cannot withdraw services if a care recipient refuses a COVID‑19 test. See Security of Tenure requirements above for further information.
HCP providers should support and encourage all staff and care recipients to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and other vaccine-preventable illnesses such as influenza. HCP providers must also report on the status of vaccinations.
See COVID-19 vaccination and reporting for care recipients, workers and providers for more information on these requirements.
ATAGI 2023 Booster advice update
For the best protection, the expert Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommends an early 2023 COVID-19 vaccine booster dose for adults aged 65 years and older or adults aged 18-64 years old who have an increased risk of severe COVID-19.
More information about this advice can be found on the Department’s website.
Financial supports for providers and workers during COVID-19
All aged care providers with a COVID-19 outbreak can access support that includes:
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).
The Government has extended the COVID 19 Aged Care Support Program grant, to continue support to aged care providers with eligible costs they have incurred due to COVID-19 outbreaks. The grant remains open for applications until 31 March 2023. Late applications will not be accepted.
When the extension to the closing date for applications is published, the GrantConnect website, including the Grant Opportunity Guidelines and answers to Frequently Asked Questions, will be updated. If you are registered with GrantConnect you will be notified of this update.
High-Risk Setting Pandemic Payment
The High-Risk Settings Pandemic Payment (HRSPP) is a lump sum payment to help workers during the time they can’t work and earn an income, because they have tested positive for COVID-19.
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.
COVID-19 resources for health professionals, including aged care providers, pathology providers and health care managers
- webinars on the COVID-19 response for the health and aged care sector
- webinars for the aged care sector.
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
- 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.
To stay up to date on aged care and COVID-19:
- browse our aged care news
- subscribe to aged care news.
You can also read our COVID-19 advice for: