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The information on this page relates specifically to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and carers. This includes:

  • foster carers
  • relative/kin carers
  • short term carers
  • emergency carers
  • respite carers

Information about how to look after yourself and kids in care.

Carers and children who feel unwell or are in high risk groups

Family time, home visits, case planning and specialist visits

Talking to children about Coronavirus and reducing risk

Schooling, child care and learning

Food relief during the COVID-19 pandemic

Respite


Carers and children who feel unwell or are in high risk groups

Where do I go for the latest information?

The best source of information is the NSW Government website

They have information about:

  • the latest changes to restrictions
  • schooling
  • what the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is
  • what symptoms to look out for
  • what to do if you feel unwell

You can contact the National Coronavirus Health Information line 1800 020 080.

What are my responsibilities when the child in my care is unwell?

As a carer, you’re one of the most important people in your child’s life.

Continue to provide a safe and caring environment for the child if they are unwell.

Follow the advice of your medical professional about self-isolation, and the process to be followed in informing people who may have been in close contact.

Do not send unwell children to school, even if their symptoms are only mild.

More information about self-isolation and what to do if you are unwell visit the NSW Health website

What do I do as a carer if I feel unwell?

If you feel unwell, check whether:

  • ­ your symptoms match those identified by NSW Health for Coronavirus
  • ­ you meet the criteria for self-isolation identified by NSW Health.

You can find the latest information at www.health.nsw.gov.au.

Contact the National Coronavirus Health Information line 1800 020 080 or follow the advice of your medical professional. Continue caring for your child if you’re well enough to do so and the child will be safe.

Talk to your caseworker or agency if you need significant assistance with caring because you are unwell. Carers should tell their caseworker about anyone who has regular contact with the child and may be able to assist with providing care.

The person may need a Working With Children Check (WWCC), if they are caring for the child for a longer period of time, or if they assist in a regular and planned way, even if they are a partner or family member.

If you don’t have a trusted family member, friend or other person to care for the child while you can’t, your agency will need to organise someone to look after them.

What if I have Coronavirus symptoms, need to self-isolate, or feel too sick to care for the child in my care?

Call 000 immediately if you are seriously unwell; otherwise consult with a medical practitioner and/or contact the National Coronavirus Health Information line 1800 020 080.

Contact your caseworker or agency if you need to self-isolate.

Follow the home isolation guidance provided by NSW Health.

Talk to your caseworker or agency if you need significant child care because you are unwell (e.g. if you need to go to hospital). Carers should tell their caseworker about anyone who has regular contact with the child in their care.

I’m Aboriginal, over 50. Should I still be caring for children? I’m over 60 with existing health conditions. Should I still be caring for children? I’m over 70. Should I still be caring for children?

Yes, if you feel able to. Talk to your caseworker about your worries and what supports you may need, including help with using technology. Take extra precautions.

Even though restrictions are easing, people aged over 70 years; people over 60 who have existing health conditions; and indigenous Australians over the age of 50 with existing health conditions should stay at home and away from other people as much as possible.

The NSW Government is announcing changes to restrictions regularly. Keep up-to-date with the latest announcements on the NSW Government website.

If you are not able to stay at home and away from others you should be:

  • limiting the number of people who come to your house
  • limiting the number of people who you visit
  • as far as practical, staying 1.5 metres away from anyone who does come to your home or for any home you visit (such as a caseworker or family member)
  • online shopping or getting someone to go shopping for you if possible (see advice about shopping).

If you are visiting someone, or receiving visitors, make sure you take eExtra precautions.These include:

  • making sure everyone in the home that you are visiting are healthy and do not have any cold or flu-like symptoms
  • only visiting others if you and everyone in the home are healthy don’t have any cold or flu-like symptoms
  • washing hands for 20 seconds as soon as you arrive at someone’s home
  • asking visitors to wash their hands for 20 seconds as soon as they enter your home
  • staying 1.5 metres away from anyone who you do not live with.

Family time, home visits, case planning and specialist visits

How can family and friends help with children I am caring for?

If it’s for a short time, a family member or a friend can help in your home.

If friends or family are going to be helping on a regular basis, they will need a Working With Children Check. Talk to your caseworker about this let them know that you need extra assistance.

If for some reason you aren’t able to care for children and you know a family member or friend who has a relationship with the child and could help, talk to your caseworker.

Can I get extra money to help with the additional costs I have now?

Generally, the Australian Government is responsible for providing financial assistance to families. There have been a number of recent announcements about changes to allowances. Please contact Centrelink for more information about allowances or visit the Australian Government website for information about of the different types of help available.

If you have a particular need for the children in your care talk to your caseworker about your circumstances.

How do I reduce the risk of contracting or spreading Coronavirus?

There are some simple steps you and the child in your care can take to protect yourself: Encourage them to:

  • regularly clean their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol.
  • cough or sneeze into their elbow, or cover with a tissue
  • avoid close contact with people who are ill
  • avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth
  • stay home if they are sick.

Can I meet parents, caseworkers or other people outside? What if there is more than two of us?

If you are meeting outside as part of your care for vulnerable children than this is allowed under current laws.

For example if you are meeting a parent outside as part of contact/family time during restoration, this is allowed.

If you are meeting with a caseworker/s or case manager/s outside as part of a home visit, this is allowed too.

If you are approached by a police officer, explain what you are doing; that this is part of an essential role you play in supporting vulnerable people. If police have concerns ask them to contact the Police Operations Centre for guidance.

What do the new rules about social gatherings mean for me?

All the members of your house can still go outside together for exercise. Stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people.

If you are outside with a caseworker, case manager or contact worker that is OK. They are exempt because they are providing an essential service. If you are supporting the child to see their parents or siblings that is OK too because that is exempt from the new conditions.

How should I shop if I’m self-isolating?

If possible, ask someone else to shop for you. Get them to wash their hands before they go to the shops and afterwards.

Try online shopping, or get someone else to do the online shopping for you.

If you are the only one who can shop then follow social distancing rules:

  • Stay 1.5 metres away from other shoppers wherever possible
  • Wash hands before and after shopping.
  • Don’t go often (e.g try only once a week).

What do I do about family time (contact)?

Family time remains important for children and their families.

However, in many cases, alternatives to face-to-face contact should be considered, such as FaceTime, other video calls, text messages, telephone calls, letters and sending photos and other mementos.

There may be some cases where face-to-face contact should still proceed, for example to support restoration or where court ordered.

We encourage you to talk with your caseworker about options for family time and to discuss any worries you may have including any strategies or solutions to support everyone during this time.

What about home visit from my caseworker or case manager?

Visits should continue but are much more likely to be via Skype, FaceTime or on another video platform.

In some circumstances, your caseworker might need to see you and child in person. For example if your caseworker is worried about the stability of the placement or particular risks with the child.

If they need to visit you in person, you should expect them to:

  • call beforehand to check if anyone in your house is unwell
  • keep their distance
  • try to make the visit outside if possible
  • wash their hands thoroughly before and after visiting you
  • not to come if they are unwell or have been in contact with someone with Coronavirus.

If the visits are made via video-call your caseworker should:

  • make sure you have some sort of technology that will allow you to do this
  • help you with how this technology works including having a practice if needed
  • both of you and the caseworker should be on video
  • talk to you separately
  • talk to the child or young person separately.

What about case planning?

Case planning is important and should continue. However, case planning should not be happening face-to-face. These meetings can be done through individual telephone calls, FaceTime/Skype or other video call. As with usual case planning, all the important people in a child’s life should have the chance to express their views.

What about specialist appointments?

Talk to your medical professional about whether your appointment is essential and how it can be best take place.


Talking to children about Coronavirus and reducing risk

Should I talk to the child in my care about Coronavirus?

Yes.

It is perfectly normal for children to have questions about the Coronavirus. Children will look to you and other adults on how to manage their reactions.

It’s ok to talk to them about Coronavirus. A calm, reassuring conversation will actually help. Speak in words they understand. Listen and answer their questions as honestly as possible and correct any misunderstandings. This will help them feel informed and understand what is happening. Keep up to date with the facts from reliable sources such as the NSW Health website.

Information about talking to children about Coronavirus.

How can I help children to feel calm?

Children are likely to have questions about their birth family and why, in some situations, they can’t see them face-to-face because of the Coronavirus. Help them understand that it is just a precaution to help stop the risk of the Coronavirus spreading. It’s not because they or their family are sick or have done anything wrong. Help them connect in other ways. Let them know it won’t be forever. When things calm down and the risk is over they will be able to see family members face-to-face again.

Children can be distressed by hearing repeated stories so monitor how much children are being exposed to television and social media and encourage them to talk to you about what they are seeing and hearing.


Schooling, child care and learning

Are schools still open?

Yes, all NSW public schools and early childhood education centres will be open for term 2, including schools for children with special needs. Out-of-school-hours care should also be available.

Catholic and independent schools are being asked to support children in out-of-home care in the same way by remaining open.

Some school services may need to close temporarily if there is a confirmed COVID-19 case. Your school will let you know if this needs to happen.

Should I be sending children in my care to school?

Learning is especially important for children and young people in care. We encourage you to send your children to school in term 2. Children in out-of-home care sometimes have additional needs and vulnerabilities and school can provide important routine, structure and extra support.

There is concern about personal safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the risk to children is lower and the benefits of school are great.

For this reason, we encourage you to consider sending your child to school in term two.

If your child is unwell or if you have concerns about your health or the health of another member of your household, please seek medical advice before your child attends school.

Please contact the school or your caseworker if you would like to discuss this or if you have any concerns about any aspect of your child's learning.

Whatever you decide for the children in your care, encourage them to learn. You can do this in different ways – from reading, to home projects, to online learning sites (see below).

Read the latest advice from the NSW Department of Education website about whether you should send your children to school.

What if I have a problem with the school?

If you are worried about a decision by a school, for example, you have been asked to keep a child at home, contact your caseworker for support.

How can I help my kids learn if they aren’t attending school in person?

Your school should be supporting you by providing learning materials, helping with technology and giving you specialist advice if needed. Talk to your child’s teacher or principal. If you need support in talking with the school, speak with your caseworker.

The NSW Department of Education has created a Learning from Home page to support children’s learning. The site also has helpful Advice for Carers to support learning from home.

How can I help my kids learn if they aren’t at school?

The NSW Department of Education has a site for helping children learn when they are at home.

What about child care for younger children?

The NSW Department of Education has specific advice about child care and early education.

Children with colds, flus or any other illness should be kept at home. Children who have travelled overseas in the last 14 days should be kept at home.

What can I do if the child in my care needs a device to complete their schoolwork from home?

The NSW Department of Education are temporarily providing computers and other equipment to NSW public school students who don’t have devices and need them to learn. This includes devices, 4G internet devices and modems.

Schools are adapting learning methods to best meet their student's needs. This may include online learning; hardcopy resources such as worksheets, workbooks and textbooks; and responding to educational television programs.

The Department of Education is focused on getting resources to students in need as soon as possible. They are giving priority to Year 12 students and disadvantaged students in rural and remote schools.

Children in out-of-home care can receive devices. It is important to talk to the child’s school about getting devices.

If the school is unable to loan a device to your child, talk to your caseworker about whether DCJ or your NGO can assist with the purchase of a device.

What about interstate travel?

We are highly unlikely to approve interstate travel.

Unless it is absolutely necessary, carers, children in their care and their families should not be travelling. Please stay up to date with travel advice and check regularly for changes.


Food relief during the COVID-19 pandemic

Who can I contact if I need help providing food for me and my family?

You should contact your caseworker or service provider. They can provide more detailed information about local services available in your area. They can help make arrangements or put you in contact with organisations directly.

If you are told to self-isolate and require emergency food relief, Service NSW can also provide you with assistance.

Where can I find information about local food services in my area?

The following websites can help:

Ask Izzy

Ask Izzy can help you find food and other services you need.  Please follow the link to Ask Izzy for more information, including support services that can assist you.

Human Services Network (HSNet)

HSNet is an online platform supported by Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ). It can help you find essential services in NSW, including food relief. Visit the HSNet website to search for services in your area.

We recommend you call or email services to check that they are operating as normal before visiting in person.

Are charities or charity groups providing food assistance?

Yes. A range of charities in NSW are providing emergency food relief and access to food services.

We recommend you call or email before visiting services in person. This will ensure they are still open and running as normal.

Anglicare

Anglicare can provide immediate assistance, including food parcels, through the Sydney and Illawarra area. They also have Mobile Community Pantries that can help with low-cost food. To find more information about Anglicare’s food and financial assistance near you, visit the Anglicare website or call 1300 111 278.

St Vincent de Paul

St Vincent de Paul can provide hot meals, meal vouchers and food hampers to anyone who is in need in each Australian capital city and many regional centres. For more information, visit the St Vincent de Paul website or call 13 18 12.

You can find more charities that provide emergency food relief, counselling and other support by contacting Service NSW.

If I’m told to self-isolate, how do I access groceries and other necessities?

If you’ve been told to self-isolate, you should first contact your caseworker and service provider to ask for help. You can also reach out to family or friends to help you with shopping and other necessities.

If you do not have family or friends who can help you, you may be eligible for an emergency relief package organised by the NSW Government and Foodbank. The emergency relief package is also available for households in regional and remote areas.

The package contains two weeks of food and personal care items such as pasta, long life milk, canned vegetables and toilet paper.

For more information, please call Service NSW on 13 77 88.

Can supermarkets help me access food?

Many supermarkets have introduced special community hours for vulnerable customers to access their stores. This is aimed at seniors, people with disabilities, and emergency services and healthcare workers.

Some supermarkets are also providing a priority delivery service for those who are not able to get to a store.

Please visit the Woolworths, Coles and IGA websites for information on special community hours, who is eligible for support and how to apply for priority delivery.

For more information about other supermarket initiatives, please visit Service NSW.

What food relief options are available specifically for Aboriginal people and communities?

The NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) is providing food and hygiene item relief packages to Aboriginal communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This initiative is primarily for people over 60 years of age. Please register to receive a food relief package by 5pm Friday 1 May (AEST).

Visit the NSWALC website for more information about the NSWALC Food Relief Program and other ways that the NSWALC are responding to COVID-19 in Aboriginal communities.

What financial supports are in place for me to support my family and household?

There are a range of government payments and initiatives to help you support your family and household during this difficult time.

  • Immediate income assistance – Information for those who have recently lost their job. This includes accessing Centrelink, making a claim for a JobSeeker payment and accessing the coronavirus supplement payment.
  • JobKeeper – A payment to help employers affected by COVID-19 to keep paying their workers. Speak with your employer about whether you’re eligible to claim the JobKeeper payment.
  • Financial support for individuals and households - Information about income support for individuals, stimulus payments for households, JobKeeper payments, accessing superannuation and support for retirees.

Where can I find information about other services to support me and my family?

The Service NSW website provides important advice, information and government updates about the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes:

  • Australian Government payments and support
  • immediate income assistance
  • emergency relief packages
  • finding vacation care providers
  • residential tenancy support packages
  • financial support for individuals and households
  • changes to transactions due to COVID-19
  • counselling and support
  • cost of living support
  • supermarket initiatives.

We encourage you to access services online or to call Service NSW on 13 77 88.

Where can I find more information?

If you have specific questions about the COVID-19 pandemic and accessing food relief, contact your service provider or email DCJ at COVID19.Support@facs.nsw.gov.au.

Alternatively, see the Service NSW COVID-19 webpage or call 13 77 88.


Respite

I need respite – what should I do?

We understand how stressful it is for carers and their families at the moment.

It’s OK for someone you know to help you care for the child if it’s for a short time.

As far as possible, regular, planned respite from another carer should continue, as this is part of a child’s normal routine.

Talk to your caseworker if you can’t get the respite you and the child need. They might be able to organise additional support for you.

I am a respite carer, should I continue to care for children?

Yes, especially if it is regular respite you provide for children you know.

If you are in an at-risk group, you should speak with your doctor and caseworker about the best option in your situation.

If you are unwell with cold, flu or coronavirus like symptoms or have recently been in touch with someone with coronavirus you should seek medical advice and contact the caseworker as respite may need to wait until you are well.

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Last updated: 27 May 2020