Developing COVID-19 Guidance for Residential Out-of-home Care Settings (NSW, Australia)

NSW Department of Communities and Justice

The client​ and background

The NSW Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) Child and Family (C&F) services is committed to the safety and wellbeing of children and young people; protecting them from risk of harm, abuse and neglect.

Prior to the first wave of COVID-19 in Australia, in March 2020, Rebbeck developed detailed guidelines for service providers on managing infectious disease in residential settings for children / young people in out-of-home-care (OOHC). This work was completed in collaboration with the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ), the Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies (ACWA), and an expert group of service providers. The Australian Services Union (ASU) and the Office of the Children’s Guardian (OCG) were also consulted in the development of these guidelines.

The challenge

During the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, C&F services sought guidance on how to continue delivering services for young people in out-of-home-care (OOHC) with community transmission of COVID-19 increasing across NSW.

In June 2021, NSW entered their third wave of COVID-19. This outbreak caused challenges for SHS providers, including:

  • The more infectious nature of the Delta strain of COVID-19, which is currently the dominant strain of COVID-19 in NSW
  • The increased cases and Public Health Orders that were implemented to contain the spread of the virus during NSW’s third wave of COVID-19
  • Limited guidance that reflected improvements in the scientific understanding of COVID-19, the Delta strain and transmission of the virus
  • Limited guidance that incorporated the development of effective COVID-19 vaccinations and their rollout in Australia

They enlisted Rebbeck to develop new guidelines, providing tools for service providers to help deliver services during the COVID-19 pandemic, adhering to public health advice, and exploring how to mitigate the likely risks and issues facing the wider population of children and young people, as well as workers, in staffed residential care homes.

The impact of our work

In August 2021, Rebbeck refreshed the guidelines to reflect the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 Guidelines for Residential Out-of-home Care Settings were restructured to allow for easier navigation for service providers. The guidelines are structured around a framework that considers the four key stakeholders that providers need to examine. They outline the practical steps that providers need to undertake to:

  • Prevent and prepare for a COVID-19 incident
  • Respond to a COVID-19 incident, and
  • Return to regular operations after a COVID-19 incident

This work ensured that children and young people in OOHC across NSW were safely supported throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

Click here to view the updated guidelines on the Department of Communities and Justice website.