Category Archives for "COVID-19 Resources"

Apr 27 2020

Information for Disability Support Pension and Carer Payment recipients in response to COVID-19

OK – so the key points from this document for people on a Disability Support Pension or Carer Payment who lose their job (ADE/supported or open employment) due to covid and have an employer who registers for JobKeeper are:

  1. You can get both DSP and JobKeeper, but if you earn too much with JobKeeper, your DSP will “Pause” during that time (until end of Sept 2020) BUT you get to keep you Health Care Card, cheaper prescriptions etc, and you’ll go back to your regular DSP amount after the JobKeeper payment ends – but you HAVE TO let Services Australia (used to be Centrelink) know. Job Keeper is taxable.
  2. If you are on Carer Payment, your Pensioner Concession Card/Health Care card will ONLY be valid during the 12 weeks of the JobKeeper Payment and you will need to reapply for Carer Payment as if you were starting again (although some of the same reports might be able to be used if they’re not too old). Job Keeper is taxable.

There is some other stuff in there about Commonwealth Rental Assistance and who gets the $750 and $550 payments as well, but above are the key points I wanted to point out.

This document has been developed to answer any questions that Disability Support Pension and Carer Payment recipients may have around the COVID-19 pandemic.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will my Disability Support Pension (DSP) be impacted if I receive the JobKeeper payment?

Yes. The amount of DSP you are paid depends on how much income you earn. If you are receiving more money through the fortnightly $1,500 JobKeeper payment, than you were before, you may get less money through your DSP. However, it is likely that you will be receiving more money overall.

Most single people on the youth rate of DSP will have their DSP payment suspended for the period that they are receiving the JobKeeper Payment.

When the JobKeeper payment stops on 27 September 2020 and if your income goes back to what it was before receiving the payment, then the amount you receive on DSP will also go back to what it was before.

Any DSP recipient that loses their DSP as a result of the JobKeeper payment will have their DSP suspended for the period they receive the JobKeeper payment, however will retain their Pensioner Concession Card (PCC) and associated benefits for the entire period. Any concessions they currently receive through their PCC should be retained (however many of these are provided by States and Territories and eligibility for those is a matter for the States and Territories).

DSP recipients whose DSP payment is reduced to nil due to increased employment income will continue to have access to Commonwealth concessions on medical benefits and pharmaceutical concessions provided by the PCC for 52 weeks.

Recipients of DSP whose partner’s income brings them over the income limit for the payment are entitled to keep their PCC for a period of 12 weeks after their DSP payment ceases to be payable.

When the JobKeeper Payments cease, the recipient will need to advise Services Australia of the change in their circumstances, and assuming no other changes to circumstances have occurred, their DSP will re-commence. A DSP recipient that is working can suspend their entitlement for up to two years without needing to re-apply for DSP.

If you have questions about your DSP, please contact Services Australia on 132 717. More information about the JobKeeper scheme, including information on eligible employers and employees can be found at https://treasury.gov.au/coronavirus/jobkeeper.

Will my Carer Payment (CP) be impacted if I receive the JobKeeper payment?

Yes. The amount of CP you are paid depends on how much income you earn. If you are receiving more money through the fortnightly $1,500 JobKeeper payment, than you were before, you may get less money through your CP. However, it is likely that you will be receiving more money overall.

When the JobKeeper payment stops in six months’ time and your income goes back to what it was before receiving the payment, and assuming there are no other changes in circumstances, then the amount you receive on CP will also go back to what it was before.

Any carers that lose their CP will receive no CP for 12 weeks while receiving the JobKeeper Payment. They will retain the Pensioner Concession Card (PCC) for those 12 weeks. However, after 12 weeks, CP will be cancelled and the PCC will no longer be able to be used. When the JobKeeper Payment ceases, the recipient will need to re-apply for CP from the beginning of the process. A previous medical report may be able to be re-used, depending on how old the report is.

If you have questions about your CP, please contact Services Australia on 132 717. More information about the JobKeeper scheme, including information on eligible employers and employees can be found at https://treasury.gov.au/coronavirus/jobkeeper.

Will the Commonwealth Rental Assistance (CRA) be impacted if a DSP recipient has their DSP suspended?

Generally, when your Disability Support Payment (DSP) is reduced to nil due to employment income, this means your CRA has also been reduced to nil.

Where your DSP payment is suspended for up to 2 years, your CRA will also not be payable.

Once your DSP payment resumes, your CRA payments may also resume, provided you continue to meet the CRA requirements.

Special rules apply in some circumstances. Please contact Services Australia on 136 240 for detailed information about CRA eligibility and rates.

Am I eligible for the additional $750 Economic Support Payment?

If you are currently receiving the Disability Support Pension (DSP), Age Pension or Carer Payment, you are eligible for the Economic Support Payment of $750, which was paid to you between 31 March 2020 and 17 April 2020. You will receive a second payment of $750 from 13 July 2020 if you continue to meet the eligibility requirements.

You do not need to apply for this payment, it will be automatically paid to you.

People receiving other government benefits may also be eligible for the $750 Economic Support Payment, however, you will only get one payment, even if you get more than one qualifying payment or card.

More information about the Economic Support Payment, including a full list of eligible payments can be found at https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/news/750-oneeconomic-support-payment.

Will I get the extra $550 Coronavirus supplement?

If you are currently receiving one of the following Governments payments, you will receive the temporary Coronavirus Supplement of $550 per fortnight on top of your current payments:

• JobSeeker Payment, Partner Allowance, Widow Allowance, Sickness Allowance and Wife Pension
• Youth Allowance for job seekers
• Youth Allowance for students and apprentices
• Austudy for students and apprentices
• ABSTUDY for students getting Living Allowance
• Parenting Payment partnered and single
• Farm Household Allowance
• Special Benefit If you receive the Disability Support Pension, Age Pension or Carer Payment and not one of the above payments, you are not eligible for the Coronavirus supplement.

Will I have to pay tax if I get the JobKeeper Payment?

The JobKeeper payment is considered taxable income. More information on tax thresholds and income tax can be found at https://www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Lodging-your-tax-return/.

If a supported employee would like to know more about taxable income, they should speak to their employer, family or carer or an Advocacy organisation for assistance.

Apr 04 2020

Can I Buy It?” – FOUR Big Questions during COVID-19 for NDIS participants

The legislation hasn’t changed, so all the same guidelines apply about spending your plan funds as before – so get a copy of Booklet 3 and read page 9.

But here are some biggies we’re all hearing over and over due to lockdowns, isolation and business closures.

  1. Can I use my NDIS funds to buy Internet Access?

If you do not have any internet access, and you now need it to access therapy and/or to use support workers remotely or you can’t use a phone because of your disability and require seeing someone’s face to catch up with Aunty Joyce and your brother, this might well meet the requirements set out on page 9 – everyone’s situation will vary. If you want it to watch Netflix, that’s probably not disability related (we all want to watch Netflix and it’s not likely to be a disability related need for most, although there may be exceptions)

For those looking to bump up their current internet, here are some things to think about – would you need extra internet bandwidth if you weren’t disabled? Ie: right now *everyone* is using extra bandwidth – do you have to think about whether the extra use is because of your disability, or is it just because you’re stuck at home like everyone else and want to watch more Netflix or facetime more with Grandma?

  • Can I buy a Laptop with my NDIS Funds?

It would be *very* rare that buying a laptop because of COVID was a claimable disability related expense. If you’re schooling from home and need one, that’s the same as everyone and is unlikely to be disability related. Once again, there will always be exceptions, but they are few and far between.

If you have a disability that make phone communications impossible, and you’ve always relied on face-to-face visits and contact to stay connected, but you haven’t got a smart phone, computer or tablet already, then a cheap tablet might well be claimable – these can be purchased for $400 or less – you probably don’t need the bells and whistles of an iPad to meet your disability related needs. If you want an iPad, you could consider claiming only a portion of the iPad – the same amount as if you bought a cheap tablet. For some people, they *will* need the features an iPad offers (hearing aid connection/guided access etc), but this won’t apply to most participants.

  • Can I buy Gym Equipment or Home Playground or other Entertainment Equipment?

Exercise and activity is vital to physical AND mental health, and for many disabled people, self and other harm and property damage can happen when they’re unable to have their regular routines or exercise.

Some gym or playground type equipment might well be claimable – but think about how to do this – could you rent equipment? Could you purchase cheaper alternatives? Do you really need big-ass equipment, or, with supervision, could a resistance band set and a fitball for less than $100 do the job? Ask an Exercise Physiologist, your personal trainer, or even your physio for help.

And don’t forget to consider online fitness sessions – either live with your PT, or one of the bazillion options on YouTube – mostly free!

I know of one family with a young person with significant behavioural support needs. He usually gets through a heap of bubble mix as a sensory calming thing, but now, stuck at home, he’s blowing (literally) through dozens of bottles of the stuff (careful the bubbles don’t spread any nasties over your fence!). Families with typical kids would not have that expense, so the extra seems like it would be claimable for this lad, in this situation, well above all the other stuff many more typical families would purchase during this time – like a Disney+ subscription or whatever.

Again, use page 9 of booklet 3 to help you make a decision – and consult with your Plan Manager before you buy in case they decide not to reimburse you!

  • Can I Employ a Family Member to reduce our risk at home?

This one is still a hard “no” from the NDIA, and I understand their hesitation, but am pretty confident (and hopeful) there is more work going on the background to look at this. There are risks for many disabled people when family members become financially dependent on the disabled person, and that can be hard to wind back, but these are exceptional times, so I’m hopeful the Agency will start to shift a little, with appropriate guidelines. Fingers Crossed.

In the meantime, consider whether your Family Carer might now be eligible for Carer Payment, or JobSeeker or JobFinder payments. Good luck getting through to Centrelink though!

A few last words – I usually do NOT recommend calling the NDIS Call Centre to ask these kinds of questions – call five times, and you’ll likely get five different answers.

BUT, the NDIA have some folks who do have some higher level knowledge – you have to choose OPTION 5 when you call 1800 800 110 to speak to their people trained around COVID-19 plan issues. (that’s also who you should call if you need to move funds from CB to Core or Vice-versa or switch to Plan or Self Management, or need an urgent plan review as you’re running out of fund due to COVID related issues.)

So, the golden rule – be honest and critical with yourself – ask yourself the question…

During this horrid time, if I didn’t have my disability, would I need to buy this anyway?

If your answer is yes, then the chances are, it’s really not claimable from your NDIS plan.

Disclaimer and stuff:

I want to be really clear – this post is full of my personal perspectives and there’s no professional personal advice offered. I try and take a common sense approach to this stuff, filtered with what I’ve learned from my understanding of the NDIS Act and reading of dozens of AAT Rulings.

This post is copyright The Growing Space, April 2020 – you are more than welcome to share it, but only in full, and with credit and no edits.

Mar 27 2020

Staying safer in a Wheelchair – Tips for wheelchair users and those who love or work with them

Staying safer in a Wheelchair through COVID-19

Cleaning your Chair
Everytime someone different touches your chair, or you leave home or come back, you’ll want to have these bits cleaned with a proper disinfectant (baby wipes DO NOT CUT IT and will NOT kill the virus).

  • Joystick
  • Head controls
  • Mouth controls
  • Push handles
  • Headrest
  • Armrests
  • Side guards
  • Back of the wheelchair

  Cleaning Other Assistive Equipment and stuff
Don’t forget other equipment you might use, like:

  • Feeding and drinking equipment
  • Walkers
  • Crutches/sticks
  • Bathroom and other rails
  • Steering wheel and door buttons and handles on cars
  • Any equipment that you handle or put near your mouth
  • Oxygen tanks
  • Transfer seats
  • Medical stuff like bags/continence related needs
  • Medication or other items in your home
  • A backpack or purse that touches your chair


Staying Safe When You’re Out
You could think about:

  • If you have plastic gloves wear them when you are out of your home.
    • DO NOT Touch your face with the plastic gloves and always clean anything you have touched after you dispose of the gloves.
  • If you travel in a taxi or bus etc, do not touch anything metal and avoid touching anything except your wheelchair.

Don’t forget that these tips are all ON TOP OF all the precautions that everyone should be considering – like disinfecting doorknobs, keyboards, remotes, computer tablets/ipads, phones, fridge handles, cupboard handles, light switches, taps etc etc – this is NOT an exhaustive list by any stretch.

Maybe now is a good time to get some voice controlled stuff set up in your home – lights etc can all be run without having to touch anything and if you are a wheelchair user looking for more independence and light switches are hard for you, I reckon you could claim those light bulbs (available at hardware and office supply places and even BigW etc.) from your core NDIS funds if you are self or plan managed.

To download the poster, visit www.thegrowingspace.com.au/covid19

HUGE thanks to Yellow Submarine for the poster and info – they share some cool stuff, so worth a follow!

Pis desc: A meme in light blue with the following words and a checklist:

Crip the Coronavirus
Keeping safe from the Coronavirus
These parts of my wheelchair should be disinfected any time a new person comes into contact with my chair or when I leave and return from my home

Joystick
Head controls
Mouth controls
Head rest
Arm rests
Side guards
Back of the wheelchair
Push handles
Other

Remember – disinfect with a 70% alcohol based solution, wipe down anything you touch, including in the car, medications, equipment and purses, backpacks
Support workers, wear gloves during personal care

Yellow Sub Down Under logo and an image of Professor X from the X men, a white man sitting in a wheelchair with x shaped wheels

https://www.facebook.com/yellowsubmarinedownunder
Mar 22 2020

Top 31 Ways to use Support Workers while avoiding COVID-19

For some participants, personal care, lifting and other physical support needs means you can’t avoid having direct contact with support workers.

But there are many people in the NDIS, who don’t need that physical support. If you are one of those people, you can ask your support workers to help support you, but to work to not touch you or get close to you. Here are a stack of ideas. Please feel free to add your own to share!

The most important thing is to always make sure they wash their hands, really well, as soon as they arrive or meet you.

So, depending on your support needs, your worker could maybe:

  1. meet you outside and go for a walk together, keeping a few metres apart
  2. sit outside, 2 metres apart, and learn to play an instrument together (like ukulele, or the recorder
  3. make and/or fly a kite at the local park
  4. leave your laundry outside the front door, and ask your support worker to pick it up, take it home, wash and dry, and then return it if they’re ok to do this
  5. get a free skype account and talk, and read books, help prompt or direct you with cooking something yummy, watch a TV show or movie at the same time as you, play online games together or even do your online shopping together
  6. take you for a drive (with you in the back if you’re not driving!) with the windows down and play the music loud and sing (this may not be a safe enough distance apart, however)
  7. help you find and collect some free or cheap basic gym equipment, set it up outside, and have the worker direct, from a safe distance, a great workout
  8. if legal and safe, have a fire pit set up and sit either side of it and tell ghost stories, or eat lots of marshmallows
  9. google outdoor yard pranks and have some fun with neighbourhood friends
  10. try geocaching
  11. sit across an outside table at home, and pain rocks, and then walk to a local park and hide them for others to find (google “painted rocks” to learn more)
  12. letterbox the neighbours with you and offer to walk their dogs for free or pay
  13. do your shopping and errands without you if you are at risk, so you are less likely to be exposed
  14. find a free or cheap outdoor table on gumtree or facebook, make a net from an old pair of stockings, grab some table tennis bats online and play ping pong outside in the driveway (or beer pong if you’re old enough and like beer as much as my son!)
  15. wash the car together, but always on opposite sides of the car, and wear gloves
  16. build a garden together and grow some food, herbs or pretty flowers
  17. have your worker help you facetime with your friends
  18. learn a new language together (maybe Auslan – sign language)
  19. tennis is a low contact game, and maybe renting a couple of kayaks or going for a bike ride could work to get outside
  20. remote art programs
  21. have them help you sort out a home budget
  22. check out the bazillions of online learning apps and homeschool resources
  23. do some virtual tours of some of the world’s greatest museums and art galleries
  24. play Pictionary or scrabble by zoom
  25. develop a daily routine and make some visual schedules together
  26. learn to do some outdoor household chores – like sweeping or picking up the dog poop
  27. teach the dog a few new tricks – tonnes of great YouTube videos to learn this
  28. learn a magic trick together
  29. but a cheap blind from the bargain bin, and see if you can borrow or score an old cheap projector, and set up an outdoor cinema at home for an evening – just keep those bean bags a few metres apart
  30. learn about botany, and collect samples from your local parks and build an album of dried leaves and flowers
  31. make a podcast remotely together

I’ve not included links for all of these – a quick google will probably get you a bunch of good answers!

This list was compiled, in part, with some ideas from the (awesome) people in the “NDIS Self-Managing Participants And Their Families” Facebook Group. Thank you for their brilliant ideas.

Feel free to share this list, with credit, but add your own ideas, too!

22 March 2020

Mar 22 2020

FREE COVID19 Webinar for NDIS Participants and Families

For disabled people and families – Practical strategies and ideas, led by Sam Paior – The Growing Space
1 hour on Wednesday March 25th

WA: 8:00AMNT: 9:30AMQLD: 10:00AMSA: 10:30AMVIC/ACT/NSW/TAS: 11:00AM

Book here now: thegrowingspace.com.au/covid19/ (Auslan Interpreter AND live captioning now booked!)


In this one hour Zoom webinar, we are not going to just tell you to wash your hands – you already know about that.
But we ARE going to go through ways to manage service providers and day options and ADE closures and talk about the big issues – and what happens if someone in my group home tests positive?
As well as ways to creatively utilise your support workers now that many recreation options are also closed.
We’ll also talk about related NDIS issues and options and ideas for looking after yourself and those you love.


We expect this to be the first in a series as everything is changing so quickly!


Many thanks to Disability Services Consulting for sharing their zoom webinar service with us to use.
pic desc: a blue confused looking icon of a virus with two sharp white teeth and googly eyes

Mar 19 2020

Support Co-ordination in a Pandemic – a practical checklist for Support Coordinators

Contact EVERY client and help them assess their critical needs, supports and ability to manage if/when it all goes pear shaped.

Here are the questions (reworded from our internal slightly to take out my swearing and add a few things I missed) our team are talking to our clients about.

  1. Do they know what this is all about – have families/carers explained the current situation? Here’s an easy English resource: https://www.thegrowingspace.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Easy-English-Coronavirus-TheGrowingSpace-2020.pdf and a social story: https://carolgraysocialstories.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Pandemics-and-the-Coronavirus.pdf
  2. Do they understand the risks for them (ie: are they at greater risk – smoker, lung concerns, diabetes, immunosuppressed for example – not an exhaustive list) – point them to official information sources https://www.health.gov.au/ and the COVID hotline: 1800 020 080
  3. Are they considering self-isolating and if so, what preparation has been done?
  4. Do they have a week or two of essential supplies – food, hygiene, cleaning
  5. Do they have a month of prescription medication and over-the-counter medication (don’t forget laxatives!)
  6. Do they have enough consumables – continence aids, wipes, catheters, feeling tube gear to last a month or so?
  7. What are their CRITICAL (could die without) support needs, and do the providers of these supports have a plan in place to support them?
  8. If they have significant critical support needs, is there a way a worker could move in a self-isolate with them?
  9. Can their family/informal supports cover if support workers are no longer available – what is the back-up plan if they’re not available?
  10. What are their plans for support if/when day options/ADE/school closes, or if someone in their group home gets sick?
  11. Have they consider having support workers doing as much work as possible outside with participants, keeping well apart if possible, and have they considered all the ways a support worker can help remotely to reduce risk (obviously this won’t be possible for everyone!)
  12. Do they have a cleaner and do they want to keep them on – consider only allowing the cleaner to use the participant’s cloths, mop, duster and vacuum to reduce the chances of spread.
  13. Handwashing – do they understand the protocol, and are they confident to demand this of workers – if self employing or contracting, do they know about the free training on offer – https://covid-19training.com.au/login.php and https://training.disabilityservicesconsulting.com.au/products/infectionfree and, could they put up a poster https://www.thegrowingspace.com.au/a-sign-for-your-door-or-workplace-covid-19/, and set up a handwashing station outside to use before anyone even enters the house? (no-one should share the handtowels which should be washed daily in 60deg water, or they could use paper towels potentially)
  14. NDIS – do they know about the changes – ability to rollover plans etc? Make sure you are well across the daily updates at https://www.ndis.gov.au/understanding/ndis-and-other-government-services/ndis-and-disaster-response#faq
  15. Check in on their mental health – this is a very stressful time for many – ask how often they’d like you to check in, and potentially refer/suggest support from mental health professionals
  16. Follow up with an email for those for whom it might be useful – outline the stuff they’re already doing to prepare, they stuff you talked about that they could action, and the things you’re going to do for them, as well as when you will contact them next (this email could likely work as your casenote).

Please don’t assume you know the answers to above without that direct conversation (where possible). I have been surprised by the gaps, and our support and ideas have been appreciated.

At The Growing Space, we have worked to assign each participant a risk level (A-D) to help us know when things get really bad, who is most at risk, based on the answers to these questions – it also means that if one of our team can’t work,  someone else should be able to quickly and easily pick up and follow up with those who need it the most.

And don’t forget – what is *your* plan for maintaining your mental health, and what is *your* back-up plan if you can’t look after your clients yourself?

Support Coordinators are not medical or legal professionals, so don’t cross those boundaries – be aware of your limitations and refer out as needed.

All the best during these tough times!

Copyright of The Growing Space 2020 – please share, but with credit and no edits. And remember – this is not medical or legal advice, and is very time sensitive – things are changing very quickly  – seek professional advice if you need it!                   March 20, 2020

pic desc: an illustrated green virus icon with an open mouth and scared looking eyes.

Mar 13 2020

A sign for your door or workplace – COVID-19

Feel free to download and use one of these on your front door – at home and your workplace to remind people to stay away if they’re sick, and to wash their hands as they come in.

You’re welcome to share these freely

Here is a .pdf version: https://www.thegrowingspace.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Do-Not-Enter-TGS.pdf

And here is a .jpg image version: https://www.thegrowingspace.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/BIG-PURPLE-DO-NOT-ENTER-SIGN-MARCH-2020.jpg

Mar 03 2020

Coronavirus/COVID19 Easy English Resource

This is useful for those with low literacy, intellectual or cognitive disability, learning disability, and for some from CALD or ATSI backgrounds. In the pdf each sentence below is accompanied by a relevant image. The language is simple and clear and accessible. The resource is five pages long and covers information about self isolation and business closures and distancing rules.

This handout is copyright of The Growing Space 2020. You are welcome to share, copy and distribute this handout whole, with credit and no edits. If you would like to publish this handout, please contact us at info@TheGrowingSpace.com.au for approval.