Australia’s peak disability representative organisations have written to National Cabinet to detail the unacceptable risks to the lives and health of people with disability caused by the response of Australia’s federal, state and territory governments to the Omicron and Delta variants of COVID-19.
In the statement to National Cabinet, the eight organisations say the disability sector is particularly concerned about National Cabinet’s decision to permit disability support workers to isolate for much shorter periods than required of Australia’s general population if those workers are close contacts of people who have been COVID-positive.
“This change means that it is now inevitable that people with an active case of COVID will be around people with disability and can pass it on. We find this unacceptable,” the statement says.
“As representatives of some of our most clinically vulnerable people, it is clear to us that governments’ let-it-rip approach is an ableist approach that does not value the lives of people with disability.”
In the statement, the organisations call for three key policy responses from Australia’s federal, state and territory governments to protect the lives and health of people with disability:
- Ensure continuity of support by disability support workers by requiring NDIS disability support service providers to develop and maintain COVID-19 emergency care plans that respond to the issue of staff shortages.
- Provide free and accessible access to personal protective equipment (PPE), especially N95 or P2 face masks, oximeters, as well as rapid antigen tests (RATs) on an ongoing basis for people with disability as well as their support workers and carers.
- Ensure priority access and processing of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for people with disability as well as their support workers and carers.
The organisations endorsing the statement include:
- People with Disability Australia
- Australian Federation of Disability Organisations
- Disability Advocacy Network Australia
- Inclusion Australia
- Women with Disabilities Australia
- National Ethnic Disability Alliance
- First Peoples Disability Network
- Children and Young People with Disability Australia