COVID-19 information for service providers

The Queensland Chief Health Officer and the Director General – Health are working with lead agencies for response and recovery, including Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors, which chairs the Human and Social Recovery Committee.

To support funded service providers and foster and kinship carers the Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors has provided answers to some of the most frequently asked questions relating to COVID-19. Updated Information for service providers includes answers to questions such as what does the relaxation of restrictions mean for face-to-face delivery of services and how will eased restrictions affect your organisation’s business.

If your organisation has any further questions or issues due to the impacts of COVID-19 contact your contract manager promptly.

People sitting in a meeting room. A woman is standing, pointing at notes stuck to the wall.

Easing restrictions – implications for community services

The Queensland Government has released its Roadmap to easing Queensland’s restrictions: A step-down approach to COVID-19. As restrictions ease, it remains critical that we continue to follow the advice of health professionals in maintaining social distancing and practising good hygiene.

This roadmap for Queensland provides important information for each stage, including the timing of stages, size of gatherings and activities that can take place at each stage.

For more information about the roadmap and how services are able to be delivered, download the easing restrictions roadmap.

For information about travel restrictions to remote communities visit the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships website.

The latest public health directions can be found on the Queensland Health website.

The Workplace Health and Safety Queensland website includes information to assist in developing a workplace health and safety plan to demonstrate how your organisation is COVID Safe.

Our Community has created a 44-page guide to assist organisations to create a COVID-19-Safe Workplace. You can access it here.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander support

Queenslander Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC)

QAIHC has developed resources in response to COVID-19 to support their members, the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Organisations (ATSICCHO) and the communities they serve.

Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network (ICAN)

This video explains how ICAN is reframing its service delivery in line with recommendations outlined by the Australian Government for COVID-19.

COVID-19 First Nations resources for healthcare providers

This collection of resources has been specifically created for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healthcare providers by Queensland Health and their healthcare partners.

Queensland Government

The Queensland Government has made more than $21 million available to support the health and wellbeing of First Nations Queenslanders and communities during COVID-19. The measures aim to combat the spread of COVID-19 amongst First Nations Queenslanders to ensure the coronavirus does not adversely impact their communities or amplify existing health inequalities.

NDIS and disability services

The Queensland Government Department of Health and the Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors has released new information on supporting people with disability through the COVID-19 pandemic. As Queensland moves towards easing restrictions, the fact sheet Supporting people with disability through the COVID-19 pandemic provides guidance to disability service providers (including NDIS registered providers) and their employees; and carers and volunteers providing support to persons with disability.


New measures have been introduced for NDIS participants and providers including:

  • NDIS plans to be extended by up to 24 months, ensuring continuity of support and increasing capacity of NDIA staff to focus on urgent and required changes to plans
  • Face to face planning shifted to telephone meetings where possible
  • Action plan to ensure NDIS participants and their families continue to receive the essential disability supports they need.
  • Proactive outreach to high-risk participants and sharing of data with states and territories to ensure continuity of supports.
  • Financial outreach to providers to support retention of workers including advance payments, 10 per cent COVID-19 loading on some supports and changes to cancellation policies.

On 27 April 2020, further initiatives were announced to ensure continuity in NDIS funded supports and services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eligible participants will be able to flexibly use existing NDIS plan funding to purchase low-cost Assistive Technology, including smart devices, to enable continued access to disability supports through telehealth and telepractice while physical distancing regulations are in place for coronavirus pandemic. This new development is important for ensuring NDIS participants remain connected to their services and disability supports.

Also, new support items for Supported Independent Living (SIL) providers are now available where a participant has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, including higher intensity support and professional cleaning services. This is to ensure minimum service disruption and the continued delivery of services.

To ensure all eligible Australians continue to be able to apply for access to the NDIS, downloadable Access Request and Supporting Evidence Forms are now available on the NDIS website.

The number of face-to-face meetings with NDIS participants is being reduced in line with the Australian Government’s advice in the coronavirus (COVID-19) national health response plan. However, face-to-face services are still available.

Visit the NDIS website for more information.

Easy read information

NDIA has published Easy Read information relating to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Easy Read – Coronavirus (COVID-19) information (PDF 3MB)
Easy Read (text only) – Coronavirus (COVID-19) information (DOCX 50KB)

The Council for Intellectual Disability has developed easy read health information including a guide on viruses and staying healthy, which may be helpful to share with participants. Similarly, Access Easy English offers a wide range of easy read resources.

Planning tools for people with disability

The Queenslanders with Disability Network, working with the University of Sydney and Queensland Government, has developed practical tools and information to help people with disability develop their own Person-Centred Emergency Preparedness plans for dealing with COVID-19.

Translated COVID-19 resources

COVID-19 information – multilingual resources are useful for anyone supporting people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds.

Queenslanders with Disability Network (QDN) resources

Queenslanders with Disability Network (QDN) are continuously updating their Information about Coronavirus (COVID-19) page.

Neighbourhood Centres and COVID-19

In accordance with Stage 2 easing restrictions, Neighbourhood and Community Centres in Queensland are open to the general public. They will continue to provide essential services including emergency relief, following Queensland Health directives and observing physical distancing in accordance with the COVID Safe Roadmap

Neighbourhood and Community Centres are continuing general operations using online and telephone resources. They are socially connecting with their communities and providing information referral using:

  • Videoconferencing tools
  • Phone calls
  • Social media
  • Online tutorials and webinars
  • Printable postcards
  • Other creative methods (that observe all public health directives).

Adapted from the Queensland Families and Communities Association website.

Services Australia resources for community groups

Services Australia has a range of resources for community groups to help people in your community who are affected by COVID-19. You can download a COVID-19 eKit with resources on how Services Australia is supporting people including an easy read guide, information on income support payments and a family and domestic violence checklist. There is also a range of audio content, including files in other languages, which you can access on the Services Australia playlist on the SoundCloud website.

Support for culturally and linguistically diverse community members

Emergency relief support for people on temporary visas

Australian Red Cross has received Government funding specifically to support people who are on temporary visas with a small one-off emergency relief payment.

Emergency relief is to help people meet their basic needs, like food, medicine or shelter. Emergency relief payments are not income support. They are limited and may not meet all needs that you have.

Given the large number of people impacted by COVID-19, the support can only be offered to people in Australia with urgent needs who:

  • are not Australian citizens or permanent residents; and
  • are not eligible for State or Territory funds for temporary visa holders (except those delivered by Red Cross); and
  • have no income or savings and no access to other support.

To find out more and apply for support visit the Red Cross website.

Multicultural Affairs – Staying connected during COVID-19

To help raise issues affecting your communities during these uncertain and challenging times, please consider joining the Whatsapp group the Department of Home Affairs has created in Queensland for community leaders. If you would like to be included in this group: Add the Queensland Home Affairs number (0434 861 883) to your contacts in your phone (this is important, otherwise you will not receive messages they send). Text 0434 861 883 with the name of the community you represent. For more information, contact the Department of Multicultural Affairs [email protected]

Domestic and family violence support for temporary visa holders during COVID-19

The Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women has developed a fact sheet to provide information about assistance available to support people on temporary visas experiencing domestic and family violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the fact sheet.

A guide for working with interpreters for community service organisations

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a constantly changing environment relating to our health, schools, jobs, income, recreation and socializing.

People from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds may experience a range of challenges including understanding the current health advice, directions regarding social distancing and isolation and available government support. This can leave people from CALD backgrounds in a vulnerable position and lead to a range of experiences including confusion, fear and anxiety, economic disadvantage and health risks. Given the significant risk to lives and livelihood which COVID-19 presents it is critical that everyone in our community can understand what is required of them, what support is available and how they can access services.

This guide provides a brief summary of important considerations for people working in community service organisations who are supporting people with the aid of an interpreter. There are also some links to further information and resources that may be helpful.

Please note, that this information covers spoken language interpreting and not interpreting for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Information regarding this can be found at Deaf Services Queensland.

Visit our page on Community Door for COVID-19 resources in languages other than English.

Are you set up to engage interpreters when needed?

Does your service have an account with a Language Service Provider or access to interpreters through a government funding body? It is important that all front line workers are familiar with the process of engaging interpreters for your particular service.

If you do not have an established account with a Language Service Provider (LSP) or arrangement through your funding body you will need to set up an account with one or more LSPs prior to booking an interpreter. There is a range of organisations providing over-the-phone interpreting services. For more information on these organisations you can simply search for telephone interpreter service Australia online or ask other organisations for their recommendations.

The Queensland Government Language Services Policy requires agencies and services funded by the Queensland Government to engage qualified interpreters. Your organisation should have a policy on engagement of interpreters.

Who is an interpreter and how do they deliver their services?

Qualified or professional interpreters in Australia are not only ‘good’ bilingual (or multilingual) individuals, they have demonstrated high proficiency in the languages in which they work. They have developed competent interpreting skills through completion of tertiary studies, professional development, and/or rigorous testing and experience. Qualified interpreters are trained to maintain strict ethical standards while performing their duties through consistent application of specialised ethical principles as set out by the AUSIT Code of Ethics and the ASLIA Code of Ethics. They are bound by national standards and are certified through NAATI, the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters.

How do you know when you should engage an interpreter?

Sometimes this is clear, the most obvious being the client asks for an interpreter. Other times it will require a degree of judgment and consideration of a range of factors including:

  • Language competency on the day – stress and tiredness can affect people’s ability to understand you.
  • Complexity of information to be discussed – a person may have a reasonable level of conversational English but may find it difficult to understand more abstract information such as giving consent to share their information with other service providers.
  • Ability of the client to communicate their needs.
  • Impact of inaccurate interpretation on the individual and/or organisation.
  • Impact on a person’s ability to access the service.
  • If you’re not sure, err on the side of caution and engage an interpreter.

It may be necessary to verbally test whether the client’s level of proficiency in English would interfere in clear and accurate communication. When verbally testing proficiency, ask one or two open-ended questions (not yes/no questions). These should not be familiar questions (where do you live?). For example, you could ask the person to explain in their own words their understanding of a statement that you make.

It may be that you need to impress upon the person the importance of engaging an interpreter even if the client does not request one.

Things to consider when booking an interpreter

  • Conversations with an interpreter will take longer than those without. Make sure you allow for additional consultation time (one and a half or double) with a client when an interpreter is involved.
  • When requesting an interpreter it is important to be specific about the language and regional dialect of the client and not make assumptions on which language or dialect would be appropriate. For example, do not assume that all people who originate from Burma can or want to speak with a Burmese interpreter.
  • You can also seek advice from community members, organisations or service providers that can help understand some of the intricacies or complexities around particular languages and cultural groups.
  • In sensitive cases, at the request of the client, it may be necessary to request an interpreter who is not of the same community (which may require requesting an interpreter by telephone).
  • Be aware the interpreter may and should decline the engagement if there is a risk of vicarious trauma, conflict of interest (close friend, family member) or​ where the terminology/issues to be discussed is beyond the interpreter’s competence.
  • Check the credentials of the interpreter provided – this can be done on the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) website, simply enter the NAATI number of the interpreter to view their credentials.

What if the client or a family member can speak some English or declines an interpreter?

Queensland Language Services guidelines state that, “The ability to converse in English does not necessarily indicate that a person comprehends the level of English spoken by doctors, nurses, magistrates, lawyers, police officers and others, or that the person understands written English. If there is any doubt about a person’s ability to communicate in or comprehend English, an interpreter should be engaged.”

  • Consider how you ask the question: “Do you need an interpreter?” versus “Would you like a professional interpreter?” or “I think we need some help to make sure we understand each other well”.
  • Mention your organisation’s policy and let them know that it is there to help the client.
  • Offer to re-evaluate the need for an interpreter in the future.

Tips for a good interpreted session

In the current climate, most if not all of your interactions with clients will be by phone or video conference and so a three-way remote conversation will be the norm. The following should be considered when setting up an interpreted session:

  • Inform the client of their rights as a service user including having access to an interpreter where necessary, that the interpreting service is provided for free, and that the interpreter is bound by a code of ethics that includes confidentiality and impartiality.
  • Brief the interpreter on the nature of the discussion to take place.
  • Ensure the interpreter is in a quiet and confidential space and is aware of the expected length of the appointment and content and ensure the interpreter feels competent and able to proceed.
  • Ensure that you and the client are also in a quiet and confidential space.
  • Speak directly to the client and direct questions and comments to the client not to the interpreter.
  • Only address the interpreter directly if needing to provide instructions and avoid interrupting the interpreter.
  • Speak in your normal tone of voice.
  • Use concise and well-constructed sentences, avoiding jargon and slang.
  • Pause once you have conveyed one or two ideas to allow the interpreter to remember and interpret everything that you have said.
  • Ensure understanding by repeating back what you have heard and asking the client to repeat back what they have heard.
  • If the client seems reluctant to speak (perhaps due to not understanding or trusting the interpreter) arrange another time and engage a different interpreter.
  • If by phone, make allowance for possible clarification by the interpreter because he/she has no visual cues (e.g. body language) to assist in interpreting.
  • Ensure that all required information is collected from and provided to the client while the interpreter is on the phone.
  • Allow time to debrief with the interpreter when the session is finished, particularly when the subject matter has been distressing or otherwise difficult.

Useful resources and links

Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service Working with Interpreters and Translators e-learning packages

Reporting issues

Contact NAATI

Sourcing interpreters and translators independently

Multicultural Australia

All Multicultural Australia services have moved online due to COVID-19. Multicultural Australia is funded by the Queensland government to provide free one on one student support, one on one career support, and also run English conversation classes. For more information on these services, visited the Study Queensland website.