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Coronavirus Pandemic

Hundreds of disability support workers in New Zealand off the job as mandate starts

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

As the COVID Vaccination Mandatory Order deadline takes effect, a NZDSN survey of its members has found over 200 disability support workers are likely to remain unvaccinated and, therefore, unable to perform their support duties from Tuesday 16th.

Urgent provision of alternative support is needed for the disabled people affected by this, says New Zealand Disability Support Network CEO Peter Reynolds.

NZDSN is the largest membership body for disability support service providers. Members can be national organisations through to individual providers and everything in between. These providers offer residential services, supported living, activity services, employment support and in-home support.

“A total of 237 disability support workers were identified by providers as likely to remain unvaccinated from 16th November. That’s an average of 3.59 disability support workers per provider. At least 237 disabled people likely to have their support service disrupted as a result of the Mandate Order,” says Mr Reynolds.

“Not everyone of the 237 is refusing to vaccinate out of protest. Some are seeking medical exemption and a few just haven’t got round to it. Some are protesting and we expect some of those are likely vaccinate when they understand this will impact on their job.

“NZDSN members are being encouraged to continue working with staff who may yet vaccinate to get them vaccinated.

“Those who are adamant they will not vaccinate against COVID are being incredibly selfish and short-sighted. Not only do they put themselves at increased risk, but they put others, including their family and close friends at risk.

“NZDSN has called on the Ministry of Health to work with the sector urgently to identify options for providers impacted by staff shortages following the implementation of the Mandate Order. The impact on staffing arrives at a time when the sector is already struggling with a support worker shortage. Disabled people shouldn’t suffer because of the position taken by a few support workers. We need Ministry of Health to agree to some options to ensure disabled people continue to receive the support to which they are entitled. It is simply not good enough to tell disabled people who may lose this support to go queue up at the local DHB,” says Mr Reynolds.

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