COVID-19: Family, whānau, and āiga carers

17 November 2021: The health and disability workforce is currently under pressure due to the mandated vaccination order. Providers may have to reduce household management services and client visits to enable them to focus support to those most in need. If you receive home and community support services and are concerned about what this might mean, please communicate with your provider about your needs over the next few months.

See the Ministry of Health’s full advisory on Homes and Community Support Services.

Last updated 17 December 2021

Carers are important and working hard during COVID-19

Carers are important and make a significant contribution to the quality of the lives of the friends, family, whānau and āiga members they support. Caring is at the heart of a compassionate community and underpins who we are and what we value. Carers’ work is of huge social and economic value to New Zealand.

The role of a carer becomes even more challenging during New Zealand’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. You are performing a key frontline role in keeping things together in your families, whānau and āiga and we acknowledge and value you.

There’s lots of helpful information for carers

We know that you may be doing more than usual, so we are thinking of you in how we provide information, funding and access to services. Some of the answers are evolving and we will work with Carers NZ, members of the Carers Alliance, service providers and other partners to keep you informed.

This information has been brought together to make it easy for you to find the support and advice you need. While we will revise this resource as required, things do change, so please regularly check the following COVID-19 and carers online resource sites:

If you do not have internet access to check on the latest news, please use the radio, TV and toll-free phone numbers such as for Carers NZ, Healthline COVID-19 enquiries, Work and Income and others.

Other useful sources are at the end of this page.

COVID-19 vaccines

Information about COVID-19 vaccines and how to book an appointment is available on the Unite Against COVID-19 website.

DHBs and all other providers will use a whānau-centred approach to vaccinate family, whānau and āiga members of older people, disabled people and people with relevant underlying health conditions when they accompany them to the appointment. DHBs and providers will consider whether:

  • the family, whānau or āiga members are carers of the person to be vaccinated
  • there is enough vaccine supply to meet demand
  • the family, whānau or āiga members have difficulty accessing the health system, including Māori, Pacific peoples, disabled people, rainbow communities, ethnic minorities and people in remote regions
  • there are other risk factors in the household, such as overcrowding or a multi-generational living arrangement.

More information on vaccines and booster doses is available on the Unite Against Covid-19 website and the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19: vaccines page.

Vaccination mandate

To keep vulnerable people safe, all health staff are required to be vaccinated.

Carers who are employed or engaged to provide care and support services within a home or place of residence and are funded by the Ministry of Health, a DHB, or ACC are required to be vaccinated. Carers who are not paid by these organisations are not required to be vaccinated. More information about the vaccination mandate including the exemptions process can be found on the Unite Against COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccinations for Workers page.

Proof of vaccination status

My Vaccine Pass is an official record of your COVID-19 vaccination status for use in New Zealand. It allows you to access certain events and venues operating under the COVID-19 Protection Framework (traffic light system). More information on how to obtain and use your My Vaccine Pass can be found on the Unite Against COVID-19 My vaccine pass page.

COVID-19 Protection Framework

COVID-19 is likely to be with the world for some time. We must manage the risks for ourselves and the people we care for. In New Zealand, the COVID-19 Protection Framework (also known as the traffic light system) will continue to protect us, while also providing more certainty and stability as possible for people and businesses, reducing the need for widespread lockdowns. It minimises the impact and provides protection from COVID-19 through Green, Orange and Red settings. Stay informed about New Zealand’s current COVID-19 settings and find out what this means for you and those you support on the Unite Against COVID-19 website.

Travel

Travel is often an essential activity in your daily life as a carer and for your family, whānau or āiga members receiving care.

More information about travel at different lockdown boundaries will be on the Unite Against COVID-19 website.

Health and disability

How to protect yourself and the people you care for

Some people are more vulnerable to illnesses. This can include both the people you care for and yourself. There are simple steps that can be taken to protect you and your family, whānau and āiga.

Good hygiene is always important – regularly wash and thoroughly dry your hands, and cough and sneeze into your elbow. It’s also important to:

  • regularly clean high-touch objects, items and surfaces
  • stay home and seek medical advice if unwell
  • get a test if necessary.

Maintaining physical distancing from people we don’t know or see regularly is also important. Use face masks or coverings on public transport and when you can’t physically distance from others you don’t know.

Protecting vulnerable people, and those they have contact with, is vital in preventing and managing the risk of both COVID-19 infection and its complications and other infectious diseases. More information is available on our Protecting yourself and others from COVID-19 page.

Assessment and testing for COVID-19

People with any COVID-19 symptoms should get assessed and may need to be tested. Most of the time, a COVID-19 test is free of charge.

The nurse may wear personal protective equipment (such as a mask, gown, face shield and gloves) and will ask you questions about your symptoms, general health, where you live and who you live with.

Testing is done by swabbing the back of your nose or throat. A swab is like a small cotton-bud with a longer stick. The sample goes to a laboratory to be analysed. You will be told when and how you will get your results and what to do while you are waiting for the results.

More information on who should get assessed for a test for COVID-19, how testing works, and where to get tested can be found at Assessment and testing for COVID-19.

Contact tracing and remembering where you’ve been

If someone has COVID-19, the local public health unit will find out if anyone else may have been in contact with them, to see if they have also been infected. This is called contact tracing.

If you are called by our contact tracers, please take or return the call. The public health unit, Ministry or Healthline will provide you with advice on self-isolation and check on your health and wellbeing.

Contact tracing allows for testing, isolation and treatment if required and is a key part of our COVID-19 strategy.

An important part of contact tracing is remembering where you’ve been and who you’ve seen. You can use the NZ COVID Tracer app that creates a digital diary, or the NZ COVID Tracer diary booklet to help.

More information on contact tracing and keeping track of where you have been can be found at Contact tracing for COVID-19.

What to do if you or the person you care for tests positive for COVID-19

Most people with COVID-19, particularly those who are fully vaccinated, are likely to have a mild to moderate viral illness but will fully recover at home or in suitable alternative accommodation. 

Care in the community is where people are supported by local care providers to ensure their health, welfare and wellbeing needs are met while they are recovering from COVID-19.

Being prepared for COVID-19 and making a plan is important. More information is available on the Unite against COVID-19 website.

If you do test positive the initial contact will be about your situation, where best to isolate and any support that is needed.

You will also be provided a contact person who will be in touch with you often to make sure that you and your whānau are safe and supported and given a telephone number for 24-hour health support. If you need medication, contact your GP or your local community pharmacy who will make arrangements for your medication to be safely delivered to your home.

Key points of contacts for health support may differ across the country. Your point of contact may be an individual or a team from your general practice, primary care provider or from a local community health service.

Find out more about Care in the community.

Your family, whānau, friends, iwi and neighbours may be able to help by dropping food and other items at the door. 

When you’re told you need to isolate, you’ll also be asked if you need any extra support. The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) is coordinating support and connecting people with the right service to help them. If you need help, MSD will connect you with someone. They may be from a local community organisation, a government agency, or a marae-based service or support that iwi have established.

Masks and face coverings

Masks or face coverings are one important way of keeping you safe as a carer and for protecting others you care for and have contact with from COVID-19. The Ministry of Health does not recommend the use of scarves or bandanas.

In general, we encourage you to wear a mask or face covering whenever you leave your home and cannot keep physical distance from others, especially in crowded indoor places. Requirements for masks and face coverings may be different at each COVID-19 Protection Framework setting.  

All households should have a supply of masks for each household member.

People with a disability or physical or mental health condition which makes it difficult to wear a mask or face covering are exempt. If you cannot wear a mask or face covering, you can get an exemption card to show others when needed. You can request a card from the Disabled Persons Assembly NZ by contacting them on 04 801 9100 or emailing them at [email protected]

It is also important to trust that others are doing the right thing. If someone does not wear a mask or face covering, they may have a legitimate reason. When you are near others who are not wearing a mask and do not know them, keep a distance. 

More information on face masks and coverings at different COVID-19 Protection Framework settings, and how to wear them correctly and safely, can be found on our Use of masks and face coverings in the community page and the Unite Against Covid-19 website.

People at higher risk

Information for people considered at higher risk of the effects of COVID-19 and for their family, whānau and āiga is available at COVID-19: Higher risk people.

Caring for older people

You can find information specifically for older people and their families, whānau and āiga during the COVID-19 response at COVID-19: Older people, their family and whānau.

Supporting a person with dementia

You may experience extra pressure in supporting someone with dementia during the COVID-19 response. More information for family, whānau, āiga, carers and supporters of people with dementia who are living at home under different COVID-19 Protection Framework settings is available at COVID-19: People with dementia.

Caring for disabled people

Information for disabled people and their families, whānau, āiga and carers during the COVID-19 response, as well as links to accessible information in alternate formats, is available on the Unite against COVID-19 website.

Getting disability support during COVID-19

If you or someone you care for needs support because of a disability, you’ll need to talk to a Needs Assessment and Service Coordination service (NASC). More information for disabled people, and their families, whānau, āiga and carers about health and disability support services is available on our NASC page.

Parents

A wide range of information and links to help you care for your tamariki, rangatahi and whānau (including explaining COVID-19, Well Child Tamariki Ora, parents with babies, whānau Māori, advice, support and resources) is available at Information for parents.

Respite – ‘taking a break’

Respite or 'taking a break' is very important to support family, whānau and āiga carers’ mental and physical health and wellbeing. Carers need to be able to use their respite and carers support allocations to support their wellbeing through the COVID-19 response.

Respite care ranges from facility-based respite services to individualised funding and Carer Support (particularly for people allocated Carer Support through disability support services funded by the Ministry of Health). Respite care is available at all levels of the Protection Framework. All publicly funded health and disability services are exempt from the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Protection Framework) Order 2021, so while the vaccination status of client/whānau informs planning for the safe delivery of support, it will not otherwise affect the decision to provide support.

Respite supports or services are allocated by Needs Assessment and Service Coordination agencies (NASCs) and are funded by the Ministry of Health (for disability support needs) and district health boards (DHBs) (for aged care, mental health and addiction and long-term chronic health needs).

If you are concerned about your wellbeing or the wellbeing of your family or whānau, and/or feel desperate for support you should talk to your NASC immediately. Emergency or urgent, respite may be available. You should make your concerns clear when you talk to your NASC.

For a list of all NASC organisations, visit the Needs Assessment and Service Coordination Association (NASCA) website.

In addition, information on respite for carers and people receiving disability support services is available on our Respite supports and services page. For carers and people with mental health and addiction, long-term chronic health conditions, and aged care needs through district health boards (DHBs) is available from each DHB and the relevant NASC.

Visit the Carers NZ website to download a free copy of the Time Out Guide, a guide to help carers plan and organise respite breaks. The Carers NZ site includes other respite planning tools you may find helpful.

Wellbeing

It’s important to remember that, when you are caring for someone else, you also need to take care of yourself. A free national mental health and addiction support service is available 24/7 – call or text 1737. Information on other places where you can find mental health and wellbeing support is available at Mental health and wellbeing resources.

Financial support

If you need help to pay for food

If you cannot pay for food, you may be able to get support from Work and Income with urgent financial support and ongoing needs, including food grants. You don’t need to be an existing Work and Income client to get this help. To learn more or check your eligibility, call 0800 559 009 or visit the Work and Income website.

Local food banks may also be able to help. You can find these on the Family Services Directory website.

Further advice on accessing food

Find more advice on access to food and essential services on the Unite Against Covid-19 website.

General financial support

You may be eligible for financial help from Work and Income for urgent costs like:

  • accommodation (rent, board, emergency housing)
  • repairing or replacing appliances
  • emergency dental treatment
  • emergency medical treatment
  • health travel costs

You don’t need to be on a benefit to get help. You can find out about the supports available for individuals, families, employers and self-employed people affected by COVID-19 by visiting Work and Income or checking what else you might be eligible for at Work and Income – Check what you might get.

If you’re not sure what you might be eligible for, or you’d like to talk to someone about your situation, you can call Work and Income on 0800 559 009.

Work and Income clients

You can use MyMSD to update your personal details, check your payments and apply for help with things like one-off costs for food. If you still need help, you can call Work and Income on 0800 559 009. More information related to COVID-19 support and changes can be found at Work and Income.

Help for carers

Information for carers can be found at Work and Income - Carers. Please check the webpage regularly for the most up to date information.

Help for carers in paid employment (including self-employed)

COVID-19 Wage Subsidy

For information on COVID-19 Wage Subsidies visit Work and Income: COVID-19 Wage Subsidy August 2021.

Leave Support Scheme

If you can’t work from home and are required to self-isolate because you meet certain health criteria, your employer may be eligible for the Leave Support Scheme to help keep paying you. You can also get the Leave Support Scheme if you’re self-employed.

The health criteria for the scheme includes situations where:

  • You are the caregiver of a dependant who has been told to self-isolate for a period by a doctor or health official through the National Contact Tracing process, and the dependant needs support to do so safely
  • You have household members who are considered “higher risk” if they contract COVID-19 and a doctor has told you to self-isolate (this is to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to vulnerable household members)

More information can be found at Work and Income - Leave Support Scheme.

Talk to your employer about your situation and whether they may be able to apply for the Leave Support Scheme to help keep paying you.

Short-Term Absence Payment

The COVID-19 Short-Term Absence Payment is available for employers and self-employed people to help pay their employees who can’t work from home while they wait for a COVID-19 test result, or who are a parent or caregiver of a dependant who is staying home while waiting for their COVID-19 test results.

Talk to your employer about your situation and whether they may be able to apply for the Short-Term Absence Payment to help keep paying you.

More information can be found at Work and Income – Short-term absence payment.

Keeping up to date

Please keep checking the key government sites for more information on the COVID response: covid19.govt.nz and health.govt.nz.

What other information do you need?

If you have questions or other information you would like to see as a carer please use the links and numbers on this page or get in touch with:

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