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Personal protective equipment - guidance for essential social services

Providers may hold a number of contracts with different government agencies, which may have different expectations depending on the service. Please contact your contract or relationship manager at your funding agency if you are unsure about face-to-face requirements with referred clients across COVID-19 alert levels.

Basic hygiene measures – at home and work

To protect yourself, and those you live and work with, please follow basic hygiene measures at home and at work. This is the best defence against COVID-19.

Contact tracing

Contact tracing allows health officials to quickly track down and test people who may have been exposed to COVID-19. This is an important tool to eliminate COVID-19,

The key things to know about contact tracing are:

  • You need to maintain a record of close contacts that occur both: within your workplaces and; between your staff and others while working outside of your workplace
  • Close contact is defined as face-to-face contact with someone in any setting that occurs within two metres, for 15 minutes or more
  • You can keep your record in either paper or electronic format
  • This information needs to be kept by organisations and easily accessible if requested by the Ministry of Health. It will not be used for any other purpose.

To assist you with this, Oranga Tamariki has developed a number of templates that you can use or adapt for your own purposes.

Personal Protective Equipment – who should use it

Frontline staff working directly with clients face to face will be the main users of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This could be in situations such as in refuges, residences, homes, when providing support (including crisis and disability) services face to face and when transporting people.

PPE use may be required in all your workplaces. This could include face masks, gloves, hand sanitiser and antibacterial wipes. Some roles may require the use of more PPE than others.

The Ministry of Health has recommended that the use of masks and other PPE is not required if physical distancing can be maintained during an interaction with clients. PPE may be required if physical distancing cannot be maintained, if the client has respiratory symptoms, or close contact is required.

We’ve agreed guidance on using PPE in social services with the Ministry of Health. This will be useful in shaping guidance for your staff in different circumstances.

It is important to note that:

  • To protect yourself and those you work with, you must follow basic hygiene measures at work and at home. This is still the best defence against COVID-19.
  • Basic hygiene measures for everyone includes; physical distancing, good hand hygiene, cough etiquette, regular cleaning of surfaces and frequently touched items, not touching the face, eyes, mouth and nose.
  • If a client has COVID-19, discuss with your local public health unit the best way to interact with the client.

When considering the need for PPE:

  • You should undertake a risk assessment by finding out about the health of your clients and their possible exposure to COVID-19. If visiting them, staff could phone ahead to ask them about this.
  • Consider the ability of your staff to maintain physical distancing and whether they might need to be in close contact with clients.
  • The Government’s guidance for COVID-19 Alert Level 3 is that most workers will not require PPE to stay safe at work. Incorrectly used PPE can create more risk.

In terms of using gloves:

  • Gloves are only required if a worker is having physical contact with a person and there is a risk of contact with body fluids, e.g. first aid.
  • Gloves, or hand sanitiser, can also be used if there is no access to handwashing facilities.

Any questions

If you have any questions around the information on this page or your role as an essential social service, please contact the contract or relationship manager at your funding agency.

You can also email us at:

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