People with disability and their families cannot be left alone to fight COVID-19, says peak bodies and key unions.
The Australian Services Union, National Disability Services, Health Services Union and the United Workers Union warn hundreds of thousands of people with disability are being forgotten during the COVID-19 pandemic and being placed at greater risk.
They are calling on the Federal Government to offer far greater protection to people with disability and the workers who support them every day.
The unions and the peak body representing the disability sector says unless the government acts this already vulnerable group of people will be amongst the worst affected. They are asking for assurances that people with disability will be able to access NDIS services, as and when needed, throughout the crisis.
"People with disability, their families and the workers who support them are incredibly worried about what will happen. They are hearing all about the plans to prop up hospitals and the aged care sector but seeing nothing being outlined for the disability sector," said Linda White, Assistant National Secretary of the Australian Services Union.
“We need a strategy and funding in place to look after 250,000 Australians and their 100,000 strong and dedicated workforce.”
David Moody, Chief Executive Officer, of National Disability Services, said: "We are talking about people who may have complex needs, they may be at heightened risk of infection or rely on specialist daily help to dress or prepare a meal. It doesn’t take much to imagine what could happen if their support worker suddenly could not make it to their home, or if the virus broke out in a shared accommodation. The consequences will be deadly and wide-scale.
‘Disability service providers are committed to supporting people with disability to lead great lives. Their ability to do so now, however, is being threatened by the virus’s spread. It’s essential that people with disability, disability providers and the workforce get the support they need from the Australian Government as soon as possible.’
The unions and peak body have set out an 18 point action plan for Federal and State Governments which includes:
- Providing funding and resources to disability service providers to ensure they aren’t forced to lose staff or cut services.
- Ensure disability workers don’t go without pay in the event of any service being cancelled or disrupted due to Covid 19, or if they are forced to isolate
- That urgent supplies of PPE are made available for disability services and workers
- The establishment of specialist support teams and a dedicated information line for people with disability and the community.
- The implementation of an immediate and appropriate emergency response from hospitals for people with disability diagnosed with the virus
- Provide funding to keep open those providers who are facing the prospect of service closures.
- Ensure funding is provided for infection control training for disability workers and that testing for COVID-19 can be done in specialist or group disability accommodation.
- Develop and implement a national plan to triage disability services so that as workers become infected or become exposed to infection and need to self-isolate, the most critical services are staffed and kept open.
- Ensure family/carers who need to take time off work to care for someone with a disability for a specified period are compensated.
Ms White added: "We need a strategy to get through these coming weeks and months and an urgent funding commitment from the Federal Government. People with disability and their workers need to be looked after during this crisis and it's vital these services continue uninterrupted.”
Read the full joint statement here.