|Doc No: NDIS Manual||Version No: 4.0||Version Date: 17/01/2022|
Pandemics are high-risk situations that develop quickly. They have the potential to severely impact the health of workers and Students . As work within the Education sector often requires close contact between workers and Students , putting in place social distancing and social isolation measures may also impact our ability to provide services.
Our services in such an environment will need to be:
▪ flexible, and
This policy covers the COVID-19 pandemic, which an ongoing situation that can change quickly and at short notice. As a support provider, we will continuously review and utilise the COVID-19 resources provided by the ASQA and other health associations as well as the RTOs alerts to ensure we meet all required health and safety standards.
- ▪ applies when:
- preparing the organisation for a pandemic
- undertaking any organisational activities during a pandemic.
- applies to all workers at every level of the organisation.
- STUDENT VULNERABILITY
We understand that Students are more vulnerable to developing illness during a pandemic because they are more likely to:
- have coming from dirrent families in the same class (e.g. one student infected will effect other attend the class.)
- have to attend diffent places (school, workshop, workplacements and home)
- have a compromised immune system (e.g., due to ages)
- require to attend in same class by different ages (from high school to post graduate at same class).
We will manage risks for all our Students and take into account each one’s choices, goals and situation.
- PREPAREDNESS AND PLANNING
As an RTO provider, it is our responsibility and obligation to meet the ASQA Code of Conduct and ASQA Practice Standards for the supports and services we provide. During a pandemic there are several risks that may compromise these requirements and we therefore must adequately identify these risks and plan our response. We acknowledge pandemics pose the following risks:
▪ Health and safety risks: if normal business operations put our Students and/or workers at an increased risk of contracting an infectious disease.
▪ Operational risks: if a pandemic situation creates an environment where we are no longer able to continue our usual operations (due to government restrictions, worker shortages etc.).
▪ Environmental risks: if a pandemic situation compromises the safety of our service environment.
▪ Economic risks: if our organisation and its workers experience financial difficulties due to limited or ceased operations.
▪ Resource risks: if we do not have sufficient resources (e.g. human resources, PPE) to continue normal operations due to a pandemic situation.
▪ Compliance risks: if a disruption to normal operations due to a pandemic situation leads to non-compliance with ASQA rules and other relevant legislation.
▪ Reputational risks: if a lack of appropriate response to a pandemic situation impacts on the way in which our organisation is perceived in the wider community.
We will work to streamline the management of these risks by completing our organisational risks register and a pandemic management plan. This will help ensure that, in the event of a pandemic, we have a planned and coordinated response. Our pandemic management plan will identify:
▪ the key actions we need to take to prepare for a pandemic
▪ our plan for ensuring business continuity
▪ the names, contact details and roles of people required to ensure business continuity
▪ services/functions that are deemed essential
▪ action plans for maintaining each essential service
▪ skillsets required to perform essential services
▪ facilities required to continue essential services
▪ Students that are most at risk
▪ how we collaborate with providers and community organisations
▪ how we will activate our pandemic management plan.
We will review our pandemic management plan annually (at a minimum) to ensure it is current.
- BASIC PREVENTION MEASURES DURING A PANDEMIC
There are basic hygiene and cleaning measures that we take at all times. These are recorded in detail in our infection control and waste management policies. Some basic measures that we take include:
▪ washing hands frequently and at relevant times
▪ maintaining respiratory hygiene at all times
▪ ensuring all areas are cleaned with appropriate tools and cleaning agents
▪ managing all forms of waste in a safe and suitable way
▪ wearing appropriate PPE when required.
During a pandemic we recognise that it is important to maintain a high level of hygiene and continue this when social distancing and/or isolation is required.
- Social distancing
Social distancing involves restrictions on movement that may need to be enforced to prevent/slow the spread of an illness. To be effective, it must apply to all workers and Students . Social distancing typically involves:
▪ being always at least 1.5 meters apart from others
▪ limiting unnecessary touching (e.g., handshakes and hugging)
▪ if possible, limiting the number of workers on shift at one time
▪ limiting face-to-face meetings where possible (i.e., conducting most meetings over the phone instead and classes online using Zoom or Microsoft team viewer)
▪ limiting food handling and sharing
- ▪ only going out for essential reasons such as:
- o attending work/school
- o purchasing food and medicine
- o medical appointments
- o personal emergencies
- ▪ avoiding all non-essential national and international travel
- ▪ avoiding mass gatherings
- ▪ working/studying from home if practicable.
We may need to have a worker or student in isolation if they:
▪ have been tested positive for a pandemic-level illness
▪ are experiencing symptoms of a pandemic-level illness
▪ have recently been in contact with someone that has tested positive for a pandemic-level illness
▪ have recently travelled to a country experiencing a large-scale outbreak of a pandemic-level illness.
Home isolation typically means that the person being isolated must partake in relevant risk-minimisation measures, including:
▪ limiting their movements to their home and garden/backyard
▪ observing all appropriate hygiene measures
▪ practicing social distancing (as outlined above) if there are other people present in the house
▪ moving quickly through or avoiding common areas
▪ wearing masks and other necessary PPE
▪ using a separate bathroom, if available
▪ using separate cutlery, linens, and towels
▪ avoiding food handling and sharing.
We will support workers in isolation by offering opportunities to work from home or making appropriate leave arrangements. In addition, we will provide workers with counselling and other resources as required. Although necessary, isolation can be a stressful experience. Therefore, we will ensure that Students in isolation:
▪ are still able to receive essential supports and services
▪ are isolated in a comfortable, clean, and well-ventilated environment
▪ keep in touch with their support network via various telecommunication methods
▪ learn about and discuss their experience
▪ partake in home-based activities they enjoy
- Restrictive Practices
Restrictive practices are used if a Student responds to a situation with a behavior of concern. These behaviors often stem from triggering factors such as a maladaptive environment, fear or in response to a real or perceived threat. In the event of a pandemic outbreak, these factors may be heightened, thus it is our responsibility to ensure we provide comprehensive and suitable support to inform the Students and other staff of what is occurring and why certain restrictions are in place. If a restrictive practice is utilised, we will follow all standard debriefing, reporting and legislative procedures outlined in our restrictive practice policy.
Whilst home isolation for therapeutic reasons is not considered a restrictive practice, it is important that such requirements during these events are discussed with the student and their support network. This applies to all Students .
- Incidents and Complaints
We will address any complaints or incidents that arise during (or as a result of) a pandemic situation. Where possible, we will always follow the same procedures that are specified in relevant policies, processes and legislation. We will also make all reasonable attempts fast-track incident and complaint reports that arise as a result of a pandemic as reports of this nature are likely to be urgent and time sensitive.
- Privacy and Confidentiality
We are committed to maintaining privacy and confidentiality in accordance with all relevant policies and legislation. Under usual circumstances, the student can decide whether they reveal health information to us.
The only time when we will request information about a health condition is if it is a notifiable condition under the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System. This may occur in the event of a pandemic. We will request this information to:
▪ give the person the support they need
▪ ensure the safety of all people within our organisation, including Students , workers, and visitors
▪ put risk-minimisation measures in place.
We do not tolerate bullying, harassment, or discrimination for any reason. This includes bullying, harassment, or discrimination on the basis of disclosed health information. Any such instance will be subject to disciplinary actions and addressed in accordance with our incident management policies/processes.
- Communication Strategies
As a pandemic situation is likely to develop very quickly, we understand the importance of consistent communication across the entire organisation. To do this, we will implement the following strategies as required:
- utilise appropriate telecommunications (email, phone, online chat etc.) to: o share important operational updates across the organisation
- make working from home arrangements
- conduct meetings and appointments
- provide relevant information to Students in a format they are most likely to understand, this may include the use of communication aids such as: o easy read documents
- choice boards
- communication apps
- alphabet boards.
- record key events and decisions in a way that allows workers and Students to reference them in in the future.
- COVID-19 Specific Definitions
COVID-19 specific definitions
The following definitions are Australian Government Department of Health guidelines on when workers should stop working and self-isolate. It is important that organisations consider the supports they provide (and the level of their Student’s vulnerabilities) before they consider following these guidelines.
|casual contact||This will include healthcare workers who have taken recommended infection control precautions, including the full use of PPE, while making close contact with someone with confirmed symptoms of COVID-19.
Workers who fall under this category are allowed to continue working, but they should be advised to selfmonitor and to self-isolate if they develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
|close contact||A form of contact with someone with confirmed symptoms that involves:
• consistently sharing a closed space (e.g., living in the same household)
• face-to-face contact longer than 15 minutes
• direct contact with any bodily fluids
• spending two or more hours in the same room.
Individuals will need to self-isolate in the event of close contact with someone with confirmed symptoms of COVID- 19.
COVID-19 was declared a pandemic on 11 March 2020. It is highly contagious and can cause severe respiratory illness. While anyone can be infected, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions are most vulnerable. Symptoms can include:
▪ sore throat
▪ fatigue, and
▪ shortness of breath.
- Workers suspected of having COVID-19 or have had known exposure to COVID-19
It’s important that workers who experience any COVID-19-like symptoms, self-isolate and seek medical advice. If you need assistance, Healthdirect provides an online symptom checker. You can also contact the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080.
If a worker has recently returned from overseas or is suspected of being in close contact with someone with COVID-19, that worker must self-isolate for 14 days.
- COVID-19 training
The Australian Government’s Department of Health has released an online training module to assist support workers with understanding how to best navigate provision of care during this pandemic. The training covers infection prevention and control (IP) for COVID-19, including:
▪ COVID-19 – what is it?
▪ signs and symptoms
▪ keeping safe – protecting Students and your workforce
At the end of the course, the support worker should be able to:
▪ understand the basics about the COVID-19 virus, including how it is spread
▪ describe what you can do to protect Students and your workforce
▪ know what to do if you develop symptoms.
▪ know what to do if the person you are supporting develops symptoms.
▪ tell the difference between myths and facts of COVID-19.
It is strongly advised that workers complete the online training, so as to improve the likelihood of acting correctly in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.
The Department of Health has also created a webinar on COVID-19 preparedness for In-home and the Community Aged Care which is also useful to NDIS providers.
Additional information can be found on the Australian Government Department of Health as well as the NDIS’s COVID-19 website, both of which are updated regularly with new information and resources.
When operating during COVID-19, it is vital that all facilities have clearly visible and relevant signs that communicate key health and safety messages. These messages include:
▪ maximum building capacity
▪ social distancing instructions/floor markers
▪ instructions for washing hands
▪ the availability of complimentary hand sanitiser
▪ for staff, instructions for cleaning their work area
▪ promotions of government resources (e.g., the COVIDSafe app).
- Contact Tracing
Contact tracing is a way of recording information about people that attended a facility for more than 15 minutes. The purpose of this is to trace people that may have been exposed to COVID-19. Information that must be recorded includes:
▪ first name
▪ phone number
▪ time the person attended the facility.
These records should be kept for 28 days either electronically or as a hard copy. If records are kept as a hard copy, pens used to write down information should be wiped down after each use.
If there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 at any facility, it is the responsibility of the service provider to follow-up with anyone else that may have been exposed to encourage them to get tested and check whether they have developed symptoms.
- PPE Requirements
Utilising PPE is crucial for minimising the risk of transmitting COVID-19. PPE that should be utilised when working during COVID-19 includes:
▪ safety googles
▪ long-sleeved gown or apron.
Appropriate PPE should be used when:
▪ providing support to someone with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19
▪ collecting or assessing bodily samples from people who have suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19
▪ working with or around people that are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19
▪ there are orders in place that make the wearing masks and/or PPE mandatory.
Further information can be found on the Department of Health.
If support providers are unable to source PPE, a request for stock should be made to the National Medical Stockpile, with the request being sent to: NDISCOVIDPPE@health.gov.au
Requesting parties will need to demonstrate:
▪ that they have been unable to source masks through the open market
▪ that existing stocks have been depleted
▪ who will be using the resources?
▪ how the stocks will be prioritised to minimise transmission to great effect
▪ how previous Stockpile stocks (if applicable) have been used effectively.
In the event of an outbreak of COVID-19 in a supported independent living setting, providers should contact the Department to request PPE from the Stockpile immediately.
- Providing essential services in a COVID-19 hotspot
This section applies if you are providing essential services in a location that has been declared a COVID-19 hotspot.
Cases of COVID-19 can become prevalent in any area. It is important to keep track of whether you are in (or near) a declared COVID-19 hotspot. This information can be found on:
▪ Department of Health
▪ local outbreak information in your state or territory
▪ NDIS COVID-19 information and support page
When working in a declared COVID-19 hotspot it is vital to keep up-to-date with the latest government recommendations, guidelines and mandates.
Recommendations, guidelines and mandates may relate to many aspects of business operation, including (but not limited to):
▪ mandatory face coverings and other PPE requirements
▪ infection control procedures
▪ working permits
▪ hours of operation
▪ contact tracing
▪ social distancing
the provision of essential and non-essential services
▪ onsite access for workers and visitors
▪ access to external facilities (e.g. sport, hospitality or religious venues)
▪ travel restrictions.
It is the responsibility of the organisation to adjust to the latest government information and make special provisions, as required. This may include:
▪ assigning key management personnel to coordinate changes to business operations
▪ updating the organisation’s pandemic management plan
▪ communicating the latest government information to workers and Students
▪ communicating any service changes to the organisation’s workers
▪ working with Students to manage service changes and/or cancellations
▪ assisting workers and Students with special requirements and/or concerns
▪ providing sufficient resources (e.g. PPE) and services (e.g. deep cleaning) to ensure health and safety
▪ monitoring compliance and helping workers and Students comply with the latest government information.
- Follow ASQA update as IAMA subscribed to got last information.
- Support workers responsibilities during the COVID-19 outbreak
It is important that we ensure our workers are up to date with the latest information on COVID-19 and that they know their responsibilities, including what to do if a Student is suspected of having COVID-19.
We must ensure supports continue for the Students they support. If this can no longer be accomplished (e.g., worker shortages or inability to provide the care Students require), notify related assosations.
IAMA must assist their Students in understanding and planning for the COVID-19 pandemic using relevant and accessible resources, for example, the Collaborating 4 Inclusion COVID-19 planning resources.
Support providers can help Students understand the NDIS’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak with an NDIS easy read which is available in multiple languages.
- COVID-19 vaccination
All Australians are encouraged to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine. To facilitate this, the Australian Government has established additional vaccination hubs. Vaccinations have been made available at:
▪ general practices
▪ Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services
▪ general practice-led respiratory clinics
▪ state and territory operated vaccine clinics
▪ other suitable contexts (e.g., pop-up clinics or specialised teams organised by health service providers).
Both staff workers and students are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. students that are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine include:
- all Students aged 16 years and over
- any student that has an underlying medical condition
More information about vaccination eligibility is available through the Vaccine Eligibility Checker.
The COVID-19 vaccine is voluntary and free. Currently, there are two types of vaccines offered in Australia. These are:
▪ the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine which is recommended for people aged 60 years and over
▪ the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine which is recommended for people aged under 60 years.
Vaccination for students training workers
To plan for and manage vaccinations within the organisation, our key management personnel must:
▪ start conversation about the vaccination program rollout
▪ outline the benefits and risks of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine to workers
▪ obtain the necessary consents from workers (this can be done by using the COVID-19 vaccination form)
▪ identify appropriate places/locations for receiving the vaccine
- ▪ keep up-to-date with: o COVID-19 vaccine information from the health Commission and ASQA website.
- o NDIS COVID-19 information
- o latest government, state and local advice
- ▪ outline Students and workers getting vaccinated will be assisted and monitored for 15-30 minutes after receiving the vaccine
- ▪ provide any other necessary supports for workers on vaccination day
- ▪ outline the implications associated with choosing not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine
- ▪ continue COVID Safe practices before, during and after undertaking vaccination management.
Support workers must:
▪ participate in conversations with their managers around vaccination and the vaccine rollout
▪ consider the risks and benefits of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine
▪ provide the necessary consents if choosing to receive the vaccine
▪ consider the implications associated with choosing not to receive the vaccine.
Further information and vaccination-related resources for eduction service providers is available from the Department of Health and ASQA website.
Vaccination for Students
Some Students are at greater risk from COVID-19. Vaccinations are very important for minimising these risks.
Students must give their informed consent before getting the vaccine. Students should discuss the risk and benefits of the vaccine with their:
▪ health professional
▪ substitute decision-maker.
Students have the right to:
▪ choose who training them before, during and after receiving the vaccine
▪ ask their training provider to be fully vacinated to be vaccinated against COVID-19
- if required, contact their service provider to discuss alternative arrangements if their trainer decides to not get the COVID-19 vaccine.
It is the provider’s responsibility to:
▪ discuss the risks and benefits of the vaccine with their Students
- ▪ provide information about the vaccine (COVID-19 flyer) to the Student in a format the Student is most likely to understand, if required use communication resources such as:
- o easy reads
- o Auslan resources
- o foreign language resources
- ▪ assist Students with accessing the most suitable COVID-19 vaccine
- ▪ continue providing supports to Students that decide to not receive the vaccine in accordance with the NDIS Code of Conduct and all other relevant legislation.
Further information and vaccination-related resources for Students is available from the Department of Health.
- Responsibilities of workers
When providing services during a pandemic, workers must:
▪ stop harmful germs from entering the environment by always complying with our infection control and waste management policies
▪ help Students understand how they can stop the spread of germs by using appropriate communication methods, such as the infection control easy read document
▪ maintain person-centered practice
▪ communicate organisational changes and special provisions in a way that is most likely to be understood by each Student
▪ ensure the service provision environment is safe
▪ remove or mitigate any factors that make a service environment unsafe
- ▪ incorporate all organisational and government recommendations into support provision including recommendations regarding: o movement and travel restrictions
- o social distancing
- o additional hygiene measures
- o isolation measures
▪ report all complaints and incidents in accordance with relevant policies and legislation
ensure hand washing facilities are always readily available
▪ ensure relevant PPE is always available
▪ limit face-to-face contact with Students where possible
▪ limit the touching of Students (and other workers) where possible
▪ monitor their own health status and act accordingly
▪ monitor the health status of Students and act accordingly
▪ self-isolate, if required
▪ consistently liaise with relevant workers and management personnel.
- Responsibilities of key management personnel
When undertaking services during a pandemic key management personnel must:
▪ coordinate pandemic preparedness and response
▪ undertake managerial responsibilities specified in the pandemic management plan
▪ make key decisions about ceasing/scaling back operations
▪ communicate key decisions clearly and cohesively across the organisation
▪ monitor the Australian Department of Health and ASQA websites, as well as the websites of other organisations that govern health and/or Students services
▪ implement state and federal recommendations and coordinate any lockdown measures.
▪ Inform the NDIS of a positive Covid exposure
- COVID-19 rapid antigen test
when a support worker is required to undergo COVID-19 testing to deliver supports, based on state or territory public health recommendations or requirements, we will provide the trainers who are providing training services with rapid antigen tests.