MEDIA RELEASE: People with disability call for urgent action in COVID-19 response
Queenslanders with Disability Network (QDN) commends the federal government on its one-off $750 payment for disability support pensioners but has warned urgent action is needed to keep people with disability safe and supported through the COVID-19 pandemic.
QDN Board Chairperson, Nigel Webb, said while the $750 payment announced as part of the federal government’s stimulus package would help the economy, the federal government needs to do more in dealing with the public health crisis, and the specific issues facing people with disability.
“People living off the Disability Support Pension are often forced to choose between keeping food on the table or paying for essential medications, so $750 will make a huge difference to their lives,” Mr Webb said.
“But what people with disability and their families are talking about at the moment is how they feel left out of the conversation about how to prepare and respond to the growing COVID-19 outbreak with the majority of public information about the virus inaccessible to many people with disability”.
“People with disability are worried they won’t have access to basic daily supports if they need to isolate as a result of contracting COVID-19 or their support workers contract the virus and are unable to work”.
“The federal government is yet to provide people with disability clear plans, funding and strategies that give them certainty that they will continue to receive their disability supports. It’s time the government listened to the disability community about what they need during this crisis.”
Chief Executive Officer, Paige Armstrong said “QDN has received an unprecedented volume of enquiries relating to COVID-19 from confused and distressed members”.
“People with disability fear service providers do not have extra capacity to train staff in infection control, meet the potential demand for replacement staff or support people with disability who have contracted COVID-19. People are also concerned about access to consumables they need.” Ms Armstrong said.
“This means that if a support worker contracts COVID-19, in a worst-case scenario, the people they care for could be left with little to no supports to assist with basic needs like eating, showering or going to the toilet”.
“QDN understands that some supported accommodation facilities are already indicating they will not be able to maintain housing and support for people with disability should they contract COVID-19″ without additional resources.
Ms Armstrong said people with disability are statistically more likely to have underlying health conditions that mean they are at greater risk from COVID-19.
“The federal government has announced an additional $101.2 million in funding to support a suite of measures for the aged care sector to respond to COVID-19″.
“QDN has written to federal ministers urging them to replicate the aged sector policy measures and additional funding to also cover people with disability and increase the capacity of the disability sector”.
“As the pandemic spreads, people with disability are feeling forgotten and fearing for their safety. It’s time for the federal government to pro-actively work with people with disability and their families to design and deliver a more inclusive response to this health crisis.”
Paige Armstrong, QDN CEO (07) 3252 8566