The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability has today released a Statement of ongoing concern following reports of the significant impact the Omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is having on people with disabilities.
The Royal Commission is deeply concerned about how the Omicron variant may be impacting the health, safety and wellbeing of people with disability. Advocacy groups and key organisations have also expressed acute fears for people with disability in relation to health care, disability support and the vaccine rollout.
In early to mid-March 2022 the Royal Commission will release an Issues Paper which will provide an overview of a number of significant areas of concern, including:
- the de-prioritisation of people with disability and lack of regard for their health and wellbeing during the pandemic
- access to vaccinations and boosters for people with disability and disability support workers across all regions
- lack of equipment (rapid antigen tests, PCR tests, PPE) and support for effective infection prevention and control, including lack of accessible testing tools and public health information
- severe disruptions to disability services and essential supports due to furloughing of staff.
The Chair of the Royal Commission, The Hon Ronald Sackville AO QC, said people with disability need to be afforded appropriate protections against COVID-19 in a timely manner.
‘The pandemic continues to expose the underlying inequities, discrimination and exclusion that people with disability experience in the delivery of fundamental services and supports,’ Mr Sackville said.
‘The more virulent Omicron variant, combined with the significant easing of restrictions across many states and territories late last year, has created problems for people with disability similar to those identified in the Commissioners’ reports for Public hearings 5 and 12.’
In March 2020, the Royal Commission issued a statement of concern about the emerging impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with disability. Since then, the Commission has received evidence indicating people with disability have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
The Royal Commission previously released two Commissioners’ reports on Public hearing 5 about the experiences of people with disability during the ongoing pandemic and Public Hearing 12 on the experiences of people with disability and the vaccine rollout. The reports made a series of findings and a total of 29 recommendations to the Australian Government. The Australian Government supported, supported in principle or accepted 27 of these recommendations, while two were noted.
People with disability, their families and support workers who have been impacted by the Omicron wave of the pandemic are encouraged to contact the Disability Royal Commission to share their experiences. People can make a submission or apply for a private session and once released the Royal Commission will invite responses to the Issues Paper.