NZDSN Covid-19 Update April 10th

NZDSN Covid-19 Update April 10th

Kia ora NZDSN members

It’s another week since our last update and it looks like New Zealand’s efforts to stamp out COVID-19 are working! Again we will attempt to provide clarity on some recurring matters, provide links to helpful information, let you know what we are up to and ask you for feedback and information on some critical issues.

In this Update:

Ministry of Health DSS Financial Assistance Package (Residential and Supported Living Providers)

MSD Funding Assistance

Support Workers as Essential Workers

Mobile Testing


NZDSN Regional Network Zoom Sessions

NZDSN networking and connections during the COVID-19 pandemic

Easy Read Resources and helpline support for people with learning disability and their families

Ministry of Health Financial Assistance Package (Residential and Supported Living providers).

There have been several communications from the Ministry – these are the key points you need to know:

  • DSS Providers have received letters from the Ministry confirming surety of funding at pre-COVID-19 levels through until September 20 and with no intention to recover funding during or retrospectively for this period.
  • There is a firm commitment to provide a financial assistance package that will reimburse providers for extra costs directly attributable to their COVID-19 response for the duration of the level 4 lockdown period – including the costs of backfilling staff who had to be stood down on leave with pay (those over 70, those with compromising health conditions or with dependents with compromised health). The Ministry is working hard to develop the process for applying for and paying out on these costs and is expecting to have this in place over the next fortnight. In the mean-time providers should keep an accurate record of these costs. There is therefore no need to apply for the government wage and leave subsidy schemes for the level 4 lockdown period.
  • Providers should however, be giving consideration now about applying for the essential workers leave subsidy for the period following the level 4 lock down. This is because not all those stood down on paid leave will be in a position to return to work at this time and you may have staff who have worked extraordinary hours during the lockdown period who could now benefit from special leave provisions. Note: this scheme does not pay retrospectively so providers should start the application process now.

However, we have asked the Ministry to give consideration to the following:

  1. The advice for those over 70 and those with comprised health conditions to not come to work was issued under the level 3 alert. It is likely that quite large numbers will want/need to continue not working under level 3. If the volume is high, leave/wage subsidies will not be enough and the need to backfill these positions will become more acute over time. if these people return to work and end up testing positive the employer is probably liable under H & S legislation – employers will therefore err on the side of caution. There will also be continuing costs associated with social distancing and other required measures under alert level 3. We are strongly urging that for ease of administration, clarity and safety the financial assistance package should cover alert levels 3 as well as 4.
  2. Financial assistance also needs to consider the conditions under which people who have been symptomatic or who have tested positive can return to work. Current guidance is 10 days since symptomatic and 48hrs asymptomatic (We note that guidance in other jurisdictions is 12 days and 72hrs).

Note: There was to be further communication from the Ministry on the financial assistance package yesterday (Friday) but this has been delayed till early next week.

MSD Funding Assistance

While both employment support and community participationcontracted funding levels continue there are a couple of issues:

  • Funding for employment services is based on average outputs over a period that includes January and many providers were still getting “up to speed” with new contracts. Some providers have successfully challenged this approach – some have not – we need some transparency and fairness here.
  • Many community participation providers are developing some great innovations and flexible approaches to continue supporting individuals, families and residential providers – assisted by the extra funding package being made available. But MSD need more applications to this fund if it is to be fully distributed! For those who have not yet applied remember: your facilities may have closed, but your programme has not – use this fund and the fact that you are still receiving normal contract funding to do what you can to continue supporting individuals and their families/residential providers. MSD is compiling a list of great ideas and practices from the applications received to date so that these can be widely shared. This is a great opportunity to embed EGL principles in practice!

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE is now being made available through DHBs. For some there are still significant delays between ordering and delivery and some are receiving much less than they ordered – largely as a result of the time it is taking for DHBs to get their supply chains up and running – and these seem to work differently across DHBs. It also seems some DHBs have not got the DGs message about masks and gloves for support workers. If you are not happy get in touch with your DHB contact person (details were attached to our previous update). Full PPE is not supplied until you have people who are symptomatic – we know the prospect of delivery not being timely in this circumstance is creating some anxiety, but we are informed that so far this has been very prompt. If you are having difficulties with timely access to adequate PPE please let us know the specifics, including which DHB so that we can follow this up. We are providing ongoing advocacy on this issue in multiple forums.

We are still awaiting updated guidelines on the use of PPE in community settings. In the mean-time here are some useful guidelines on the use and disposal of PPE courtesy of Te Pou.

 Full 3-page PDF version   One-page PDF on what PPE is   One-page PDF for putting on PPE

One-page PDF for taking PPE off   Accessible Word version  

Support workers as essential workers

While the status of support workers as part of the essential workforce has been confirmed for some time, we are still hearing reports of their employer ID letters not being accepted across a variety of circumstances (let us know of instances so we can take the specifics to the right people). We have asked the Director General of Health to make some emphatic public statements about their status as part of the essential workforce and to take the opportunity to acknowledge the valuable contribution they are making to support citizens who may experience heightened risk and vulnerability at this time.

Mobile Testing

People have raised with us the difficulties and risks of getting symptomatic people to testing stations (mobility, transport, challenging behaviour, additional staffing resources etc.) and the possibility of people coming to group homes/individuals to do testing. We have raised this with both DHBs and the Ministry and it is being looked into.


Te Pou are putting together some online induction resources. If you have digital resources that have been developed for use on line and you are prepared to share – please get in touch with Te Pou. Using online recruitment platforms can help speed up the screening/vetting and matching process. In addition to the Ministry of Health portal (on MoH website) you can also use:


E tu Job Match:

Mycare: (some fees apply)

Student Job Search:

NZDSN Regional Network Zoom Sessions

This week we began our Wednesday weekly zoom sessions for our provider network. These are generously facilitated by our regional host/coordinators (contact information below). These sessions are an opportunity to share top issues and concerns, share ideas/information and resources and a way for NZDSN to get a consolidated national picture of what’s happening. This is done through a Thursday zoom meeting of the regional coordinators and NZDSN. We will use this information to spread ideas and resources nationally and to ensure we are representing to government the full national picture of issues and concerns related to COVID-19. Our first zoom sessions involved 115 providers across 7 regional networks. It will take a couple of days to sort and assemble all the information but some initial matters that rose to the top were:

  • Concerns about access to PPE (surprise!)
  • The volume of information coming from all directions
  • Mixed messaging about the MoH financial assistance package
  • Backfilling staff in the absence of certainty about financial assistance
  • Getting people tested
  • Support for people being admitted to hospital
  • People being supported now beginning to struggle with life in lockdown and difficulty understanding/following the rules
  • A lot of support happening across organisations
  • Generally, a lot of positivity and resilience being displayed
  • Some great use of social media and technology to stay in touch
  • “Pastoral payments” by residential providers to families – brilliant!

These sessions will continue on a weekly basis except for Waikato/Bay of plenty which will be fortnightly. Key contacts to join are:

Auckland: Mireille Vreeburg

Waikato/Bay of Plenty: Samantha Lee

and Warren Herring

Hawkes Bay: Sue Robson Susan Robson and Andrew Wordsworth

Lower Nth Island Steve Hickey

Nelson/Marlborough Karen Bailey

Canterbury: Henrietta Trip and Thomas Callanan

Otago/Southland: Pam Tomkins

If there is not a network in your region you can join the one closest to your location.

NZDSN networking and connections during the COVID-19 pandemic

NZDSN is involved in multiple forums that include:

Ministry DSS Sector Response Group (includes MoH, MSD, unions, other peak groups, DPOs); Ministry Workforce Group; DHB and peak body information clearing house group; CDEM National Disability Network; Weekly and daily briefings with key officials and regular sessions with Ministers Salesa and Sepuloni. We are also in regular contact with other peak groups, DPOs, Disability Rights Commissioner and unions.

Easy Read Resources and helpline support for people with learning disability and their families

Two important messages from People First:

Kia ora

People First NZ has been working with the NZ Government to create Easy Read information about COVID-19. This information is now being added to the website:

We have also been collecting relevant Easy Read resources from around the world that can help people understand what is happening here, and we are working on creating some simplified Easy Read for people with high needs that we are hoping to add very soon.

Please see our resource collection here:

We also have a specific page for Easy Read messages from Work and Income during COVID-19. You can find them here:

People First New Zealand COVID-19 helpline

People First New Zealand, IHC and Personal Advocacy and Safeguarding Adult Trust are working together to respond to people with learning disability during COVID-19.

We are using the People First 0800 (free phone) number to assist people with learning disability and their families/ whānau. While People First NZ staff will respond to calls in the first instance, the 3 organisations will work together to make sure all people get the help they need.

We know that things are hard right now for many people with learning disability and their families / whānau. People First New Zealand is here to assist you. Do you need some help?  Ring the People First New Zealand helpline on 0800 20 60 70. It’s free to call from anywhere in New Zealand.

The TalkLink Trust

The TalkLink Trust has put together some resources on their website here: The first link includes Social Stories explaining COVID19 and staying at home.  The second link includes useful resources for home, including a number of visual supports for things like hand washing. This information has also been placed on our Facebook page and we will be regularly adding to the resources on our website.  If there are other issues that you require visual supports or Social Stories let us know  – we are happy to create more. Ann Smaill, Chief Executive

We hope you all manage to find some time for some rest and recreation (safely of course) this Easter weekend

Kia tu tahi tatou

From the NZDSN team

Dr Garth Bennie

Chief Executive