To our Growing Space Clients,
You have no doubt heard the news yesterday, that here in South Australia we are now in a six day “hard” lockdown.
What South Australians can’t do
You will not be allowed outside of your home, except for essential trips – the supermarket or immediate medical appointments and supplies for example. You are not allowed to go for a walk or do exercise outside of your home and yard.
Shopping centres will be shut except for supermarkets/pharmacies, and take-away food places will also be closed.
What South Australians with Disability can do
Children of essential workers and vulnerable children (which includes disabled children unable to be cared for at home) are the only children allowed at school over the next week.
Disabled people with significant behavioural support needs which cannot be met within their home/yard and need to be able to go out to walk for example, can apply for a health exemption at firstname.lastname@example.org – your Support Coordinator can help you make this application.
Support workers that are needed for essential services for you are still allowed at your home and they are allowed to travel to you. This includes where someone needs to go out to regulate severe behavioural support needs.
How The Growing Space can help
If you are reliant on take-away food, or do not have enough essential food or medical/consumable supplies or any other urgent need please contact your Support Coordinator as soon as you can and we will work to arrange the supports you need.
Please contact your Support Coordinator for any support you need and we will do what we can to help.
We can also help with explaining special NDIS changes due to lockdown. You can find more information at https://www.ndis.gov.au/coronavirus.
An Easy English explanation
I have attached an Easy English document at https://www.thegrowingspace.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/South-Australia-Covid-19-Lockdown-Update-Easy-English.pdf which explains the changes and how we can help. This might be useful for you, or someone you love.
Free video e-Learning
The Growing Space Learning team have TODAY released our Thriving Through COVID-19 online learning course – given the new lockdown in SA, we have decided to offer this course for FREE, so do please sign yourself up and watch whenever it suits you!
We’ve got your back
Myself and our Growing Space Team wish you all the best for the next week, and please know that we are here, we’ve got your back.
We’re all still working and available and can help answer your questions and get you the supports you need – if we don’t know the answer to a question, we will find out and get back to you, as quickly as we can.
The Growing Space
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:
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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).
Cleaning Other Assistive Equipment and stuff
Don’t forget other equipment you might use, like:
Staying Safe When You’re Out
You could think about:
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
Back of the wheelchair
Remember – disinfect with a 70% alcohol based solution, wipe down
anything you touch, including in the car, medications, equipment and purses,
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
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 but still need support! If you are one of those people, you can ask your support workers to help support you while wearing a mask if possible, 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:
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
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
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.
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.