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What is the Community Visitors Scheme?

Older Australians experience high rates of loneliness and social isolation, but there are different initiatives to combat this issue and improve social connectedness and encourage social interaction in the community.

Key points:

  • The Community Visitors Scheme (CVS) addresses the current loneliness and social isolation issue prevalent among older Australians

  • You need to be receiving a Government subsidised service to be eligible for the CVS

  • CVS is provided by selected organisations in each State and Territory

An older woman having a cuppa with a person.
The Community Visitors Scheme is an important service for older people that don't have a lot of social engagement. [Source: iStock]

One such initiative is the Community Visitors Scheme (CVS), which targets loneliness and isolation amongst aged care recipients through companionship.

Sometimes the geographic location or family circumstances can result in senior Australians becoming socially and physically isolated.

The CVS, an initiative from the Department of Health, uses volunteer visitors to meet with people on a regular basis to provide friendship and social inclusion.

As Australia’s population ages and since the elderly are living longer, the CVS is becoming incredibly important for social interaction and life changing engagement.

The CVS improves quality of life to all involved with the program and has been proven to combat loneliness and isolation occurring in residential aged care or at home.

Older people who would benefit from the CVS include people who have little contact with family or friends, are isolated from their own culture or heritage, have issues with their mobility which prevents them from participating in social activities, or other personal issues that might make it difficult to engage socially.

The service focuses purely on companionship and the volunteer will not provide personal assistance like cleaning, personal care or nursing.

What service is provided?

Under the Government initiative, a CVS volunteer will visit at least once a week for an hour. The volunteer will usually have similar hobbies, interests and likes to the recipient.

The CVS tries to connect like-minded individuals and recipients to facilitate a good friendship.

There are a number of different types of volunteer visits under CVS:

  • A residential volunteer visits a participant for a one-on-one visit at a residential aged care facility. 

  • Group residential volunteers visit a small group of residents at a residential aged care facility who have similar interests, like gardening or knitting.

  • A home care volunteer visits a CVS recipient with an approved Home Care Package at their home once a week for one-on-one interaction.

Volunteers cannot monitor your standards of care from your aged care service provider, be involved in any of your financial affairs, access your personal or care record information, provide any form of nursing or personal care, or follow up a complaint about your care.

Think of your volunteer visitor as a dear friend that has come over for a cup of coffee and a chat.

However, if your visiting volunteer is concerned about your health or care, they can report to their CVS auspice. This information can then be passed on to the provider.

Am I eligible?

If you are an older Australian who is at risk of or experiences loneliness, isolation or cultural loneliness, then you may be eligible for the Community Visitors Scheme.

However, you have to be receiving a Government subsidised residential aged care or Home Care Package to be eligible for visits.

An aged care provider, nursing home, medical centre, hospital, healthcare worker, home care worker, family member, friends, or even yourself, can refer you to the scheme.

The service is free for people eligible to receive the CVS program.

Vulnerable groups who are at a higher risk of feeling isolated or experiencing loneliness are an important consideration for eligibility.

This includes people from: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) communities, culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, rural or remote areas, financially or socially disadvantaged, homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, veterans, care leavers, parents separates from their children by forced adoption or removal, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.

States and Territory hubs

The Community Visitors Scheme is run by Government chosen "auspices", also known as organisations, in each State and Territory. 

Government funds these auspices to recruit volunteer visitors for the program.

You can contact a CVS auspice through your aged care provider, contacting the Department of Social Services, or contacting the CVS member directly within your State or Territory, or phoning My Aged Care on 1800 200 422 or www.myagedcare.gov.au.

Queensland is run by the Community Care Network (QCCN), visit their website or ring QCCN on 07 3379 7200. 

Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Victoria is covered by the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) organisation, head to their website or call on 03 9845 2800.

Northern Territory is serviced by AnglicareNT. Contact them on their website or call 08 8928 0620. 

South Australia has Southern Volunteering (SA) Inc running the CVS program. To find out more, head to the Southern Volunteering (SA) website or call them on 08 8326 0020. 

Tasmania's CVS network partner is Lifeline Tasmania. Visit their website or call 03 6282 1505. 

Western Australia is serviced by Melville Cares Inc. To find out more, head to their website or call them on 08 9319 0916. 

For any extra information about the CVS, contact the Government Health department email or call 1800 020 103 for the Department of Health switchboard.

How would the CVS benefit you? Tell us in the comments below.

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