NZDSN Covid-19 Update April 17th

COVID-19 Update: April 17

Kia ora NZDSN members
We maybe on the home straight with Alert level 4, but as the Prime Minister has said, we are not out of the woods yet. Level 3 may well pose its own set of challenges as we get to grips with new scenarios. In this update we report on and provide our take on developments (or in some cases the lack there-of) provide links to useful information and again ask you for feedback on some areas on some matters. We apologise in advance for the volume of information in this update and the number of attachments – there is a lot happening! The attachments include a PDF file from the MOH website that provides initial guidance on Alert level 3.

And here are some key messages from the Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield

There is detailed guidance on level 3 specific to Disability Support Services coming early next week.

In this Update:

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Financial Assistance Package for COVID related costs
Additional Funding from MSD now available to other providers
Audit and Assurance of Infection Control for Residential Providers
Mobile Testing
Media Support
ODI Survey
Regional Network Zoom sessions
Employment Support Diploma Qualification
NZDSN advocacy and lobbying opportunities
A “Shout Out” to Support Workers!

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Yes, it’s back to the top of the list. PPE supply chains through DHBs are beginning to take shape albeit in different ways across different DHBs – there are increasing reports of people getting what they need. There are still mixed interpretations by DHBs around access due to the differences between the guidelines on the Ministry website and the DGs instructions to DHBs to supply community providers if they need masks and gloves. We understand some updated PPE guidance will be on the Ministry of Health website soon. It is also apparent that DHBs are not always aware of the size and reach of providers or of the scale of IF and others with personal budgets hiring their own support workers. There is still confusion for people funded by ACC around who has responsibility for supply and who delivers PPE – a solution is being worked on.

The overall result is that many are still having to convince the DHB that they need masks and gloves and when they do get supplied the quantity is often woefully inadequate. Many providers are also having to deal with multiple DHBs, each with their own distribution systems. Many providers are turning to private suppliers amid such uncertainty and at a range of price points.

To summarise – PPE distribution is still a work in progress and, depending where you are, a bit of a dog’s breakfast. Please keep us informed of how its working for you (we need specifics) and we will keep lobbying in the numerous forums available to us. If you are having PPE issues that are urgent contact Adri Isbister directly:

Attached to this update is the latest advice and information from DSS on PPE distribution.

You may want to show this information to DHB personal you are dealing with.

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  

In addition to providing surety of contracted funding through until September the MOH has also committed to funding additional COVID related costs for the level 4 lockdown period, particularly those related to the hiring of staff to replace those who have had to be stood down on paid leave. However, details about how to assess these costs and the process and timing of payment is still unknown and this is becoming frustrating and alarming for many providers – and rightly so. We understand that some of the delay is about trying to get alignment across all sectors, however that hasn’t prevented aged care from reaching a deal.

This needs to be sorted and soon! In addition, there is no information on the funding of COVID related costs under alert level 3 and these may be little different than costs under level 4. Given the delays and the prospect that level 3 could be upon us next week the financial assistance package should be developed with both alert levels in mind. Wage and leave subsidies are not going to cut it for a sector that entered the pandemic already in the midst of a funding crisis.

The Ministry has assured us that there is no need for providers to be applying to the governments wage subsidy scheme under level 4, but with such a delay in the provision of assistance increasing numbers of providers are doing so – some successfully. We can understand why providers would want to hedge their bets even if it means the possibility of some complex reconciliations down the track. With the possibility of level 3 just around the corner and no assurances of a financial assistance package beyond level 4 (which has yet to materialise) our current advice is to consider preparing to apply for both wage and leave subsidies from next Wednesday – hedge your bets. If you are looking at your next payroll with mounting concern – contact the Ministry of Health.

For providers with multiple contract lines the different treatment across funders and sectors is creating complexity and some difficult judgment calls for providers in terms of how costs are divided up and where the connection with the government wage and leave subsidies sits. It’s very tempting to use the phrase “a dog’s breakfast” for the second time in the same update!

We will keep you posted as soon as there are any further developments.

Additional Funding from MSD now available to other providers

MSD are now in a position to offer the additional funding we received from the government to organisations that do not hold current Very High Needs or Community Participation contracts with MSD (most of these providers have already accessed the funding). Please contact Claire Stearne if you have any questions:

Claire Stearne – National Manager Contracts
Phone: DDI 04 916 3224 | D2D 46224 | M 029 2957560 |
Ministry of Social Development, Aurora Centre, 56 The Terrace, PO Box 1556, Wellington 6140

The additional funding is available to support the wellbeing of disabled people including people with health and mental health conditions by trying to limit the impacts of anxiety and loneliness during the Covid-19 response. This funding is to enable organisations to continue providing support during alert level 4, alert level 3 and any periods of self-isolation.

How can the funding be used? Organisations can use the funding to:
• employ additional staff to provide regular support to disabled people and their families/whanau. This support can be provided through a variety of channels including face to face (for essential service providers and following Ministry of Health Guidelines) email, Facebook, texts or phone calls
• develop resources to provide activities for people at home. This can include setting up and managing private Facebook groups, developing YouTube videos, video conferencing, creating and sending hard copy activity packs, sending art supplies and supporting the develop of peer support networks. We’ve pulled together some ideas from MSD funded providers and have attached them to this email.

Who is the funding for?
Priority will be given to funding organisations supporting disabled people including people with health or mental health conditions who:
• live alone; live with family/whanau; are in Contract Board; live in a flat; or live in rural or isolated areas

Funding amount
If your application meets the funding criteria you will receive a one of payment of $18,500. You may receive more if you are supporting a large number of people in the priority groups. The funding will be paid as a lump sum.

You will be asked to provide a brief report detailing how you have used the funding in early July.

How to apply:
Complete the attached form and send it to
They will review your application and get back to you if they need more information.

Audit and Assurance of Infection Control for Residential Providers

Residential Providers will have received information from the DSS Deputy Director about the plan to audit with regard to infection control. This has been requested by the Director General of Health as part of providing assurance that all aged care and community residential facilities have appropriate infection control procedures in place The audits will be done through DHBs, but DSS will be sending out an audit checklist to assist you to prepare for the audits. You may need to update your pandemic plans as part of this process.

If you have any queries the Ministry DSS contact person is Rob Gill:

Mobile Testing

There are now several DHBs offering mobile testing services. We had hoped to provide specific contact details for the relevant DHBs, but this information has not been provided to us yet. In the mean time we suggest you contact your local DHB public health unit to make inquiries. We will send the contact information as soon as we have it.

Media support

We know that there is heightened anxiety about the prospect of media attention if your service or a facility becomes part of a cluster where staff or people supported are tested positive. NZDSN is able to provide some support, advice and guidance around responding to media inquiries including access to people who are specialists in writing prepared media statements.

If you are contacted by the media and you are not sure what to say or do the best initial response is a firm “no comment.” This gives you time to talk to your Board Chair, think about what, if anything you want to say, reflect on what the medias “angle” is likely to be and decide if you are willing to be interviewed or just want to release a prepared statement. Contact Garth Bennie at NZDSN if you want to discuss further.

ODI Survey

The office of Disability Issues will be sending out a weekly survey from today to collect information about how COVID-19 and various responses to the crisis are impacting disabled people, families and providers. Actual data rather than anecdote is essential to determine what’s working, what’s not and what response changes are needed. Please take the time to complete this survey – it will only take about 15 minutes – the data will be collated and reported on the following week. Please complete the survey at:

Regional Network Zoom sessions

This week around 70 providers participated in these sessions. Waikato/Bay of Plenty are joining fortnightly and Hawkes Bay are using the disability network linked to CDEM. Network Coordinators from both these regions are still reporting weekly though. We will keep these sessions going as long as the demand is there. Attached is a national summary report from last week’s sessions which highlights the major areas of concern (which NZDSN is lobbying hard on) lists a range of useful links to further information/resources on a range of topics and provides a list of ideas and initiatives that providers have engaged with. Some of the information is included as separate attachments. If you are not sure who to talk to/contact about what – give us a call! This update and earlier ones are on our website.

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

Here is some information from Total Mobility

Employment Support Diploma Qualification

Just to let you know that work on this project is continuing, however the time line for bringing on board learning facilitators/assessors and the accredited assessor training workshop has been pushed out until July or August due to complications associated with COVID-19. This has bought us more time to ensure a comprehensive curriculum, but clearly the start date for enrolments will now be later in the year. We will keep you posted.

NZDSN advocacy and lobbying opportunities

We continue to participate in several forums to provide information, advice and advocacy on the issues that matter to our members: DSS Sector Response Group, National Information Clearing House (DHBs, Ministry and sector umbrella groups) Workforce Working Group and a CDEM national disability network. We are in daily contact with senior officials on wide range of issues and have regular direct contact with relevant Ministers. If there is something you think we should be picking up, focusing on more or providing more feedback/information on – please get in touch!
We are also making a submission and appearing before the epidemic response committee next week.

A “Shout Out” to Support workers!

Early on in this crisis our Disability Support Workers struggled to get recognition as an “essential workforce” and are still frequently “hidden” from public recognition as most references talk about “front line health professionals” and emergency service workers. Members of this workforce are still having their status as essential workers challenged – as they go to and from work, as they line up at supermarkets to get groceries for the people they support and many are still waiting for basic PPE as DHBs scramble with developing new supply chains to this part of the workforce. The letters that support workers have from their employers as ID are routinely challenged as they have not traditionally carried photo ID for work purposes and do not wear uniforms.

The thousands of staff who make up this workforce are daily working alongside some of the most at risk and vulnerable members of our communities, many of whom are struggling with the concept of a lockdown and things like social distancing – and a group who often experience degrees of social isolation even at the best of times. This adds to the challenges and risks for support workers – who remain undeterred and (along with the organisations employing them) are working very hard to provide the best and most effective support they can in very some very trying circumstances. Many are “living in” with the people they support in residential services to reduce the risk of transmission.

Being challenged about their status as essential workers as they get on with doing their job is devaluing and unhelpful. We collectively need to send some strong public messages that reinforce the critical and essential role they play in supporting the wellbeing and safety of some our countries most at risk citizens at this time – and that they are a critical part of the “essential workforce.”

From the Team at NZDSN
Kia tu tahi tatou