NSW Department of Communities and Justice – Specialist Homelessness Services COVID Guidelines (NSW, Australia)

NSW Department of Communities and Justice

The client​ and background

The NSW Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) is committed to improving homelessness services.

Prior to the first wave of COVID-19 in Australia, in March 2020, Rebbeck developed practical guidance material for homelessness service providers to deliver accommodation-based responses for people experiencing homelessness in anticipation of the COVID-19 pandemic. An overview of these guidance materials was presented to more than 300 providers across the sector in an Industry Partnership Webinar for homelessness services in NSW.

The challenge

In the 18 months since the original guidance material was produced significant changes had occurred which required the materials to be refreshed.

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 increasing number of Public Health Orders that were implemented to contain the spread of the virus during NSW’s third wave of COVID-19
  • The original guidance did not reflect the improvements in the scientific understanding of COVID-19, the Delta strain and transmission of the virus
  • The original guidance had not incorporated the development of effective COVID-19 vaccinations and their rollout in Australia

SHS sought guidance on how to continue delivering services for people experiencing homelessness, with community transmission of COVID-19 increasing across NSW, whilst ensuring they are adhering to public health advice and balancing the needs of their workforce and clients.

The impact of our work

In August 2021, Rebbeck updated these guidance materials to reflect the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 Guidelines for Specialist Homelessness Services were restructured to allow for easier navigation for SHS services. The guidelines were structured around a framework that considers the seven key stakeholders that SHS providers need to examine. They outline the practical steps that SHS providers need to undertake to:

    1. Prevent and prepare for a COVID-19 incident
    2. Respond to a COVID-19 incident, and
    3. Return to regular operations after a COVID-19 incident

The Rebbeck team developed accompanying training videos to give SHS providers an overview of the guidelines and to walk through the key considerations that congregate care settings, domestic and family violence refuges and youth refuges would need to consider to safely prevent, prepare for, and respond to a COVID-19 incident.

Click here to view the guidelines and accompanying training videos on the Department of Communities and Justice Website.