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Coronavirus Pandemic

Urgent action needed to prevent COVID-19 crisis in disability care

A disabled child in a wheelchair being cared for by a care worker

The Australian government and the NDIA need to take urgent action to keep NDIS clients and disability care workers safe from COVID-19 as case numbers grow both in disability homes and amongst residential clients, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“The sector is at high risk of a COVID-19 outbreak because, similar to the aged care sector, it relies on an insecure, casual and highly mobile workforce. Urgent action is needed to ensure that the tragically high death toll we have seen in aged care is not repeated in the disability community,” said Mr Graham Droppert, national president, ALA.

“We cannot have disability care workers choosing between going to work with symptoms or being unable to financially support their family.”

“Agencies funded through the NDIS to provide support services must start supplying PPE to all their staff, sub-contractors and clients. We have received reports that some sub-contracted disability carers are being required to purchase their own PPE.This is clearly not an appropriate solution. Workers who cannot afford to purchase it are going without, or using the same PPE across multiple shifts putting themselves and their clients at risk.

“We are also very concerned that many sub-contracted disability carers are untrained in infection control and how to properly use PPE. Training and assistance are desperately required to avoid a health crisis in the sector.”

Lawyers work within the NDIS every day helping people with disability and their families negotiate the scheme and facilitating appropriate care for their needs.The ALA has made a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on NDIS which addresses the need to improve working conditions of employees engaged in the sector who are often subject to insecure, casual employment on poor terms and conditions.

“The disability care industry has grown since the NDIS was brought in and expanded over recent years. However sadly what has not increased is the quality of care, knowledge and training of some of the support workers. We see far too many examples of sub-standard care and insufficient options for people with disability,” said Mr Droppert.

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