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Coronavirus Pandemic

Disability support workers face mental health struggles during COVID

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

Independent aged care and disability support workers have experienced increased stress levels while working during the COVID-19 pandemic due to financial strain and concern around contracting, or passing the virus onto clients.

The national survey of independent aged care and disability support workers took place in August 2020. It was conducted by Careseekers, an online platform directly, and safely, connecting families and individuals with aged care and disability support workers to deliver in-home services.

Key findings:

  • The survey was completed by 300 independent workers from the Careseekers platform across Australia
  • 53% of the respondents were from New South Wales, 24% were from Victoria and 14% were from Queensland. The remaining 9% are from South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.
  • 68% of independent aged care and disability support workers have experienced increased stress levels while working during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 80% of support workers would not work with someone who currently has COVID-19.
  • 55% of workers are willing to work with individuals who have recovered from COVID-19.
  • 30% of workers surveyed have had a COVID-19 test.
  • Workers could nominate multiple reasons for increased stress – 52% said financial concerns due to lost hours, 52% said concern around contracting COVID-19 and 43% of workers were stressed about passing on COVID-19 to their clients.
  • Comparing Victoria and NSW – workers in Victoria were more likely to feel stressed than workers in NSW (76% vs 65%) and the top reason for feeling stressed varied – in Victoria it was catching COVID and in NSW it was financial. 80% of workers had lost work in Victoria compared to 65% in NSW.

“Independent aged care and disability support workers in the community recognise they are working with some of the most vulnerable members of our community. They are taking every precaution to make sure that they are free of COVID-19 while delivering essential services, wearing masks, not going to work when sick and getting tested as required. This is despite the financial stress it is causing them,” CEO Careseekers Marissa Sandler said.

Four out of five of support workers surveyed said they felt very fortunate to work in an industry where there continues to be demand for their services, and spoke of the pride they felt being able to assist members of the community to access essential services throughout these times.

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