The health department has ordered CHSP providers to put a halt to non-essential gatherings and visits amid the escalating coronavirus crisis and says they will be able to transfer the allocated funds to other services.

“If you provide Social Support Groups and group activities, you should suspend them for four weeks (from March 23). You can continue to support clients by re-directing their funds to other non-face-to-face activities and support services,” the department says in a memo to providers.

The government has also introduced flexibility provisions allowing community support providers to re-allocate their funding between service types and is asking them to work in a creative and collaborative way with other providers.

The provisions only apply to services that are already funded and do not extend to transferal of funds between planning regions unless there are exceptional circumstances approved by the department.

“CHSP service providers are encouraged to use the flexibility provisions to direct resources towards delivering critical services, such as ensuring clients have access to meals and groceries, undertaking welfare checks, and undertaking phone/video call social interactions with their clients,” the department says.

Collaboration with other providers

The health department is also urging CHSP providers to use their workforces “creatively” to respond to increasing demand for critical services, such as redirecting staff involved in social support groups towards meal delivery or making phone calls.

“Providers that have underutilised staff, and are not funded for services that are experiencing high and unmet demand, should seek to collaborate with other providers in their area – to potentially offer short-term staffing assistance, wherever possible,” the memo states.

The government is also urging providers to retain staff through the outbreak and has introduced incentives to make sure they do.

“The department will take into consideration the current circumstances when reviewing acquittals data for 2019-20 and 2020-21, for example where funded outputs are not delivered, but funding is redeployed to other services that enable staff retention,” Health says.

It comes after the government announced an additional $92.2 million for home care and CHSP providers during the COVID-19 pandemic, including $70.2 million for unsolicited grant proposals over the current and upcoming financial year.

To request an unsolicited grant, providers are requested to email [email protected] or contact their funding arrangement manager.

The ban on group activities will apply until April 20, and the health department has asked providers to communicate any changes to clients, carers and families as soon as possible.

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