Covid-19

Can You Refuse to Serve Someone Who Refuses to be COVID Safe?

Can You Refuse to Serve Someone Who Refuses to be COVID Safe?

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Customers refusing to wear masks while shopping in Victoria, where masks are now mandatory, have attracted a lot of media attention in recent weeks.

Business.gov.au has published a guide to the reasons businesses can refuse to serve customers, including safety, and the relevant aspects of anti-discrimination law. The guide is for all Australian businesses - not just businesses in Victoria.

Alexandria EvansCan You Refuse to Serve Someone Who Refuses to be COVID Safe?
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Melbourne Level 4 Restrictions

Melbourne Level 4 Restrictions

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The increased restrictions under the Stage 4 – Stay at home Directions have been introduced to reduce the spread of COVID19 by limiting the number of people leaving their home and moving around the Victorian community.

ATSA can confirm that the manufacture, general supply and support of AT is appropriately covered in “permitted activities” within Melbourne’s Stage 4 restrictions and it includes modifying vehicles to enable people with disability to travel safely.

While these activities are permitted, it’s also important that consideration is given to whether on-site activities can be delivered remotely (as far as possible) and whether the on-site activity is essential for the health, safety or wellbeing of people with disability.

Please also note that the Permitted Worker Scheme is now in place, which means that workplaces in Melbourne must be closed unless:

  • the workplace is a part of a permitted activity, or
  • all employees are working from home.

Employers that require their staff to attend a worksite must issue a worker permit to their employees. Further information, including a ‘Permitted worker permit’ downloadable form is available here.

This is conditional on the understanding that each business has in place a COVID Safe Plan as per the Directions of Victoria’s Chief Health Officer. Learn more here.

Our industry plays a very important part in supporting people with disability and our services have been recognised by government. We need to ensure that our actions support the government's intent to restrict the spread of the COVID-19 virus. ATSA encourages our members to conduct only necessary activity currently and to comply with health and safety directives for the benefit of our community.

Details of Stage 4 Restrictions for Melbourne - please refer to the Statement from the Premier on restrictions for business for the full details. Click here to learn more.

For formal documents relating to the Health Act and Stage 4 restrictions, click here.

Alexandria EvansMelbourne Level 4 Restrictions
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Where to Find the Latest COVID-19 Information

Where to Find the Latest COVID-19 Information

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ATSA encourages all members to regularly visit the NDIS Commission coronavirus (COVID-19) information page, available here.

This page contains links to updates, training, alerts, and resources for NDIS participants and providers. This information is to inform and support NDIS providers to continue to deliver quality and safe supports and services to NDIS participants.

Alexandria EvansWhere to Find the Latest COVID-19 Information
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Low Cost COVID-19 Assistive Technology Changes

Low Cost COVID-19 Assistive Technology Changes

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The Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), the Hon Stuart Robert MP, has announced three changes to help NDIS participants during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Increased flexibility for low-cost assistive technology (AT)
  • New support line items for participants living in supported independent living (SIL) arrangements
  • Online access to the NDIS Access Request Form (ARF) and Supporting Evidence Form

Further detail on the low cost AT changes are outlined below:

Increased flexibility for low-cost AT

To ensure continuity in NDIS funded supports and services during the COVID-19 pandemic, the NDIA are temporarily broadening the flexible approach for low cost AT items.

Participants will be able to use their existing NDIS funding to purchase an item if all of the following criteria are met:

  • the AT will maintain existing funded NDIS supports like a program or therapy
  • the provider of supports has confirmed in writing that the device is necessary to continue supports and services while maintaining physical distancing requirements
  • the AT is the lowest specification that will maintain funded supports
  • the participant does not already have the item, another suitable item or access to the item
  • the AT has not been funded by another service system (such as education)
  • the AT or circumstances are not specifically excluded.

How will this work?

The NDIA are recommending participants work with their existing providers to discuss the best way to receive services and supports while maintaining physical distancing – this may include using available technology, developing exercise programs participants can do at home or borrowing equipment and keeping in touch over the phone.

  • Plan-managed or self-managed participants can purchase low cost AT items from any provider.
  • Agency-managed participants can purchase these from any registered NDIS provider. A common approach is for therapy providers to buy the AT item for the participant.

How will this relate to funding?

Not all participants have funding available in core budgets for consumables. There will be a system update 9 May 2020 to increase flexible access in plans.

Participants who only have funding in their capacity building budget will be able to use a special line item to enable use of this new flexible approach (more details on this later in the week).

If a specific item is required to maintain supports, written evidence in the form of a letter/email from the participant’s existing provider will be required to support this purchase.

How will payments be claimed?

Providers, plan managers and self-managing participants need to attach this letter to claim payment. The letter/email should include:

  • the participant’s name and NDIS number;
  • that delivery of current support in the plan has been significantly hindered due to physical distancing restrictions (or other element of COVID-19) and that alternate solutions to maintain delivery/outcome have been considered, but not fully addressed the limitations;
  • how the device is necessary to maintain supports and services while maintaining physical distancing requirements;
  • the specific technologies and associated accessories required, and that these represent the lowest specification capable of delivering the benefit; and
  • that the participant is able to use the device/s to access the support.

Before the participant (or nominee) or provider makes a claim for the selected item, the participant should be sure that:

  • the participant does not already have the item, another suitable item or access to the item, and
  • that a similar or suitable item has not been funded by another service system (such as education), and
  • that the item or circumstances are not specifically excluded under this policy.

When will this take effect?

The arrangement will be in place until September 2020, with a review at the end of June 2020.

To be really clear, this policy does not involve provision of extra NDIS funding into a participant’s plan, but rather flexibility to use existing funding.

Where to find more information

Latest news on NDIA initiatives to support providers and participants during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic can be found on the news and events page of the NDIS website.

More information is also available on the Assistive Technology page of the NDIS website.

Alexandria EvansLow Cost COVID-19 Assistive Technology Changes
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New Government Plan to Support People with Disability

New Government Plan to Support People with Disability

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The Australian Government Department of Health has released a new plan that will help support people with disability throughout COVID-19.

The Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus guides the Australian health sector response. This management and operational plan focus on people with disability.

You can download and read the plan here.

The Plan has been developed for people of all ages with disability, their families, carers, support workers and the disability and health care sectors. It will provide high-level guidance on a range of factors that need to be considered in managing and preventing the transmission of COVID-19 for people with disability. The Plan will be informed by a risk-based approach, prioritising individuals whose disability, current health status and setting, places them at significant risk of adverse outcomes related to COVID-19.

The Plan will be a living document and will be reviewed periodically, in line with the Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Coronavirus. As new evidence and recommendations for how to manage the COVID-19 pandemic emerge, particularly in relation to disability, the Plan will be updated accordingly.

Alexandria EvansNew Government Plan to Support People with Disability
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Financial Support for AT Businesses

Financial Support for AT Businesses

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NDIA Additional 10% Payment on Invoices

There has been some confusion with the recent announcement of the NDIA additional 10% payment on invoices

The NDIA will pay a 10% COVID-19 loading which will be added to price limits for certain supports for up to six months:

  • Assistance with Daily Life (excluding Supported Independent Living) and Assistance with Social and Community Participation)
  • Improved Daily Living

The 10% is not applicable to capital purchases, such as AT.

“The 10 percent loading fee has been established specifically for additional costs for aspects such as cleaning and PPE during the COVID-19 outbreak. Unfortunately, this does not include capital supports (assistive technology). The advanced payment also excludes capital items and plan management claims.” NDIA March 2020

Advice for NDIS Providers on COVID 19 Assistance Packages

There have been several assistance packages announced by the NDIA.  The most reliable information for all stakeholders is on the NDIS website.

This web page is regularly updated and is designed to answer common questions that have been raised.

Open access to NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission (NDIS QSC) Notices and updates now available for not registered providers.

The NDIS QSC now have a general subscription option, allowing anyone to sign-up and receive these updates via email. The subscription button can be found on NDIS QSC website, on the bottom of the Provider Newsletter page.

Small Business Guidance About Refunds and Cancellations

Businesses will need to be aware of their rights and obligations when managing refunds and cancellations because of COVID-19, and the ACCC has issued guidance to assist small businesses to understand their rights and obligations under the Australian Consumer Law.

“We know a lot of small businesses are facing a very challenging time, but they still want to do the right thing by their customers,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said.

Insurers Offer Deferred Payments

Insurers to offer deferred payments, refunds under small business relief package. Insurance companies and brokers will be able to work together to implement COVID-19 relief measures for certain small businesses following the ACCC’s granting of interim authorisation today.

The authorisation applies to Suncorp, Allianz, and QBE Insurance, as well as any other insurers or insurance brokers who choose to take part, as long as they notify the ACCC. Read more here.

The Government’s New JobKeeper Payment

FOR EMPLOYERS: If you’re an employer, you will need to register for the JobKeeper payment here.
 
Both EMPLOYEES & EMPLOYERS can find more info here

The Australian Taxation Office will be given a level of discretion to address each business’s set of circumstances, so do not assume that your turnover position may deem you as ineligible. It is recommended that you do not just look at any turnover reduction but, include trials and scripts to identify your forecasted position.

ATSA highly recommends that all businesses consider registering for this Government initiative.

The finer detail of this initiative is being developed and legislation prepared, which ATSA understands issues such as “pipeline” disruption to revenue will be considered.

Alexandria EvansFinancial Support for AT Businesses
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Caring For Your Mental Health

Caring For Your Mental Health

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We are in very unfamiliar times with the economic fabric of our society transforming before our eyes. Some things that we cherished and were familiar with are undergoing profound change and loss. The coronavirus COVID-19 is impacting people in varying ways that we could not have imagined just months ago. Sadly, this is resulting in some people feeling afraid, worried, anxious and overwhelmed. We need to recognise that this is a natural and very understandable response to what is quickly evolving before us.   

As a business leader dealing with this set of circumstances you are not immune to feeling the pressure, so do not forget that you need to take care of your health and look out for the symptoms and act. I liken it to the safety warning you receive about oxygen masks when flying, “fit it first before you assist others”. Mental health management is much the same - you need to ensure you take care of yourself as others are relying on your leadership in these trying times.

Just remember that you’re not alone and do not be slow in asking for help -  your mental health and wellbeing is very important - not just for you but for those close to you.

If you need to reach out, here are some support organisations that can help:

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636

LifeLine: 13 11 14 / 0477 13 11 14 or evening crisis chat

Black Dog Institute

Alexandria EvansCaring For Your Mental Health
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Are AT Businesses an Essential Service?

Are AT Businesses an Essential Service?

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With the fast-changing circumstances along with the mixed messages that were coming through about the possible lockdown of non-essential services, ATSA wrote early this week to all 15 Disability and Health Ministers across the country last night to ensure that the supply of AT remains on the agenda as an essential service.

Each state has differing approaches within their legislations regarding what is an essential service and what is not,  e.g. it is clear in NSW where the support of medical devices is listed within the legislation, whereas in Victoria it will be determined at the time.

Regardless of this, ATSA strongly recommends that you plan with the expectation that the supply of AT will be an essential service in the event of a “lockdown”. ATSA was also in discussion with the NDIA last night on the fast unfolding situation - they are also working to ensure the AT sector is fully supported and considered as an essential service.

The current situation at the time of writing is that only activities that have been listed are to cease operation. The supply of goods and services is not listed, therefore, AT suppliers need to continue to operate.

In the letter to the Ministers, ATSA has requested that the industry be provided with support and consideration for the following:
Logistic support cost relief due to the falling dollar and the impact that the COVID-19 is having on the cost of doing business.

Access to PPE
Some states have elected to close their borders - it is important that you let me know if you have any issues in shipping or supplying stock or if you are having issues in obtaining PPE. In addition, if you are having difficulties in sourcing suppliers from overseas, or in accessing your orders through customs.

If there is any interest for ATSA to open discussion with Government about Telehealth to support your clients with their AT, please contact us. With respect to your supply contracts with Government or others, ATSA highly recommends that you contact them to discuss cost implications due to the fall in the Australian dollar now. If you are having difficulties in any of these areas please also get in touch.
Alexandria EvansAre AT Businesses an Essential Service?
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Important Information for AT Providers About COVID-19

Important Information for AT Providers About COVID-19

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The impact of COVID-19 on society is growing along with constant daily changes to how we live our lives and carry out business. ATSA is actively working with the NDIA, NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission and the TGA to ensure that as an industry we are as well-equipped as possible to work through this. 

The Australian Government is updating their information daily and will be a reliable source, particularly the Department of Health webpage. If a notice that is AT-specific comes to hand this will be circulated to you as necessary.

If you have a question that you cannot find the answer to, please email ATSA for assistance. We have a number of government connections that we can access to assist you, especially if you have a concern.

HOW ATSA HAS BEEN INVOLVED

ATSA has been working with ARATA, the National Assistive Technology Alliance (NATA) and with the NDIA, to identify what help our industry requires from the Government to ensure it can continue to “business as usual” in the current climate.

One of the main points raised to date is access to PPE. Under the current set of circumstances, not all providers of supports are viewed as “medical” support workers which is preventing supply and support of AT.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

A central point of information is needed for the industry and participants to allow a mutual understanding of what actions are currently in place and what they can do. We understand that some of the information available is confusing or hard to find, which we have been asked quite often.

Here is some information we have identified:

The key is to establish workplace policies that ensure all staff understand their duty to take reasonable care for their own health, as well as those around them. Practising good hygiene has been the strongest recommendation by our Government, which includes:

  • Washing their hands often, with soap and water, or carrying hand sanitiser and using it as needed.
  • Practise social isolation, i.e. 1.5m from others.
  • Covering their mouth when coughing or sneezing, but not using their hands to do so.
  • Seeing a health care professional if they start to feel unwell.
  • If unwell, avoiding contact with others (including shaking hands or other touching, such as hugging).

CHANGES TO YOUR BUSINESS OPERATION

If you are a registered provider of supports with the NDIS Quality Safeguards Commission (NDIS QSC), it is a condition of your registration to notify the NDIS QSC of certain changes and events – especially those which substantially affect your ability to provide the supports and services that your business is registered to provide. For example delayed shipping for spare parts, minimal staff due to illness or limited PPE access.

Alexandria EvansImportant Information for AT Providers About COVID-19
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Government Assistance Packages for AT Businesses

Government Assistance Packages for AT Businesses

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Information on Government assistance to businesses impacted by COVID-19 from Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business.

Here are the issued the following links to access assistance from the Government

The main point of information on the available assistance can be found here.

Here are some other sites that may be of interest or assistance to you

Here are some of the non-business links that you may wish to let your clients know about

Alexandria EvansGovernment Assistance Packages for AT Businesses
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