Managing home care through COVID-19

Home Care Package (HCP) 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.

HCP providers need to be prepared for potential outbreaks of COVID-19 in their community. Their organisation should:

  • continues to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19
  • remain alert and be prepared 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.

State and territory public health advice

HCP 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.

COVIDSafe planning

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 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.

Workforce planning

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 where close personal care and support services are provided is classed as a high-risk setting as it involves frequent close contact with care recipients.

Where workers have tested positive for COVID-19, they should 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 for at least 7 days, 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 for nationally consistent advice to help them respond to notifiable diseases using best practice.
  • 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 outbreaks of Acute Respiratory Infection (including COVID-19 and influenza) in residential care facilities. 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. We are working with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to put in place free COVID-19 infection control online training. Once new training arrangements are finalised, an announcement will be made on our website and via the aged care sector newsletters and alerts.

More information can be found in the IPC resources section.

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 to 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, provision of food 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

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 tests positive to COVID-19, HCP providers should:

  • enact IPC measures when providing services to care recipients 
  • minimise the number of workers 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, workers 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. 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.

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 positive care recipients can access support with the 2023 COVID-19 Aged Care Support Grant.

More information is available on the GrantConnect website.

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.

We encourage 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.

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 or outbreaks of acute respiratory infections (including influenza and COVID-19) in residential care facilities. 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

Residential aged care providers with a COVID-19 outbreak and Home Care providers who are impacted by COVID-19 positive care recipient cases in 2023 may access the following financial supports:

2023 COVID-19 Aged Care Support Program Grant 

The Australian Government has committed funding for the 2023 COVID -19 Aged Care Support Grant. 

The grant will support providers to transition towards managing the costs of COVID-19 outbreaks as part of their business-as-usual arrangements. Eligible providers of Commonwealth funded, approved providers of residential and home care services will have the opportunity to apply for reimbursement of eligible costs they have incurred due to COVID-19 outbreaks involving COVID-19 positive residents (or COVID-19 positive home care recipients) between 1 January 2023 and 31 December 2023.

All information, including specific eligibility requirements for this grant opportunity can be found on the whole-of-government GrantConnect page.  Please note that you will be required to register to access the documents, and providers are encouraged to read through the Grant Opportunity Guidelines to understand the process and expectations of the grant.

Aged Care Worker COVID-19 leave payment grants 

From mid July 2023, a new grant will be available to support eligible permanent or casual aged care workers caring for older Australians most at risk of severe illness.

Eligible Australian Government funded residential aged care and home care providers will be able to apply for reimbursement of up to $750 per week for payments they have made (from 1

April 2023) to eligible permanent or casual employees that have no personal leave entitlements available and need to take leave because they have tested positive to COVID-19.

This will help to encourage staff who test positive to COVID-19 to stay home while unwell and protect older Australians in their care.

More information is available on the GrantConnect website.


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.


IPC Resources

Staying informed

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

You can also read our COVID-19 advice for:

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