ACWA COVID-19 Update: April 29

Welcome to ACWA’s latest update of the work our COVID-19 Response Team is undertaking, alongside our non-government and government partners, to address the various impacts that COVID-19 is having on our sector, and on the vulnerable individuals, families and communities we work with.

The slowdown we are witnessing in the spread of this virus, while extremely welcome, stands in stark contrast to the intensity of sector efforts being channelled into delivering care and support to those needing it most at this time.

Please read on for a recap of the areas that ACWA has focused on over the past week:

Guidelines for working with young people in residential OOHC settings

As previously reported, ACWA has been working with DCJ and Rebbeck Consulting on developing detailed Guidelines for services providing residential out-of-home care for young people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are happy to advise that ACWA has circulated these Guidelines to residential care and out-of-home care service providers, and they are now available on DCJ’s website.

These Guidelines aim to provide practical guidance to service providers on managing infectious disease in residential out-of-home care settings to ensure that public health advice is communicated clearly, and the safety of staff and children young people is effectively managed. They were produced following consultation with subject matter experts, including a number of providers who gave generously of their time, as well as the Australian Services Union and the Office of the Children’s Guardian.

The material explores how to mitigate the likely risks and issues facing the wider population of children and young people in staffed residential care homes, and in particular the following three cohorts:

  • Children and young people with a disability
  • Children and young people with high behavioural needs
  • (Therapeutic) Supported Independent Living – SIL and TSIL

The Guidelines bring together a broad range of information sources into one document to support providers to develop and/or further refine their service continuity planning and responses. They are not intended to replace business continuity plans that service providers may already have in place to respond to their specific circumstances. This document will be reviewed and updated as the policy and operational procedures recommended by health authorities continue to evolve.

If you have any questions about the Guidelines, please direct them to DCJ at the following mailbox:

Related training & support material

In recognition of the length and complexity of the information contained in the abovementioned Guidelines, ACWA has prepared companion training materials and a series of brief fact sheets to assist frontline staff in residential settings to more easily navigate the guidance.

This material is now available on ACWA’s website, together with instructions for accessing the free training modules.

As the COVID-19 testing eligibility continues to evolve, ACWA recommends that you refer to the NSW Health website for the most up-to-date advice. In the meantime, we will continue to work with DCJ to ensure that the Guidelines and the related training and support material are regularly updated.

Vulnerable Children & Young People Collaboration Group

This group has been set up to explore collaborative approaches for supporting vulnerable children and communities during and beyond the pandemic crisis.

Members of the group met again last Thursday (April 23), and heard progress updates from leaders of the four working groups that have been established under this collaborative initiative to look at the following identified priority areas:

  1. Supporting the educational needs of vulnerable children and young people.
  2. Gathering information on the support needs of particular vulnerable groups in the community.
  3. Boosting the NGO sector’s capacity to effectively use virtual technology for supporting the needs of vulnerable families.
  4. Identifying and responding to current service and support gaps.

The group leaders also outlined possibilities for future work, and opportunities for the wider sector to become involved.

Working Group 1 Update:
Dr Amy Conley Wright (University of Sydney) spoke about the work that she and Annette Michaux (Parenting Research Centre) are leading to establish a community of practice to share ideas for providing support in the education of vulnerable children. As part of this initiative, a Zoom conference will be held on May 6, in which senior representatives from the Department of Education and the Department of Communities and Justice will share information on current government support strategies and how these can be accessed. This will be followed by a moderated Q&A opportunity for practitioners, aimed at identifying gaps and sharing positive practices in supporting vulnerable children and families who are currently remote schooling, and/or seeking to transition back to face-to-face schooling. Senior practitioners and practice leads are invited to register to attend this session by clicking here. Dr Conley Wright noted that Barnardos UK has prepared a highly relevant briefing paper on this topic.

Working Group 2 Update:
Dr Conley Wright also briefed the group about information and evidence relating to the current support needs of carers. She also shared the following fact sheets about how to engage children online, and ways to stay connected, which carers and caseworkers may find useful when seeking to engage children and families in a virtual environment:

Working Group 3 Update:
Grainne O’Loughlin (Karitane) outlined details of a proposal, which has been developed jointly with Annette Michaux (Parenting Research Centre), for a project aimed at building  capacity within the NGO sector for the use of telehealth/other virtual environments in client contact. This paper proposes a collaborative approach to delivering a range of telehealth interventions, including virtual home visits to families experiencing vulnerabilities. Under the proposal, Karitane will collaborate with the Parenting Research Centre, DCJ, ACWA, Fams and the broader NSW child and family sector, to build the skills of the existing workforce to deliver quality, evidence-informed telehealth services using Karitane’s experience, training resources, collateral and blueprint materials. The project would particularly target programs in the Targeted Early Intervention, Brighter Futures and out-of-home care spaces. Under the proposal, sector support will occur via communities of practice, case study explorations and iterative co-development of best practice resources.

Working Group 4 Update: 
Kirsty Nowlan (The Benevolent Society) is leading the final piece of work to identify major current service and support gaps including, but not limited to, education, and how to address them. This group is considering a wide range of policy priorities, including place-based work and data challenges, and the need to focus on what recovery looks like for vulnerable children and families in the post pandemic social environment.

ACWA is keen to continue to facilitate the work of the broader governance group, as well as the separate working parties, in partnership with other peaks and with DCJ.

New resource: Training & assessing prospective carers during COVID-19

Within the current COVID-19 environment, our out-of-home care sector colleagues are continuing to rely on the use of online technology to train and assess potential carers and relative/kinship carers.

To support agencies in this critical work, ACWA has developed a new resourceTraining and assessing prospective carers during COVID-19, that provides tips and guidance for carer trainers and assessors delivering Shared Lives training and undertaking Step by Step assessments online.

The information contained in this material is based on work developed by Fostering Connections, the Centre for Excellence in Child & Family Welfare, the Department of Health and Human Services, and various Victorian foster care agencies. ACWA extends our appreciation to these bodies for permitting us to adapt this information to the NSW context.

If you have any feedback about this resource, or questions about undertaking Shared Lives training and Step by Step assessments online, please contact Jo Roach at ACWA on (02) 8974 9827 or:

For agencies that may need more carer trainers and assessors throughout this period, ACWA is also delivering the following training in virtual classrooms:

DCJ technology giveaway: Applications close this Friday

DCJ is giving away repurposed laptops/tablets and/or internet access to children, young people, carers and families in need of technology support during the COVID-19 pandemic. NGOs are invited to apply on behalf of families they work with who would benefit from this scheme. Applications close at COB this Friday, May 1Click here to apply.

COVID-19 information and resources

Please also keep checking our dedicated COVID-19 Information Hub for the latest information and advice on issues critical to the sector, and our Resources Clearinghouse for practice related material and advice.

Your feedback

If you have any COVID-related feedback or matters that you would like ACWA to address, please continue to forward them to us via our designated COVID-19 email: