Joint media release: COVID-19: Confusion still exists over access to PPE for people with disability

8 May 2020

Joint media release, ACTCOSS, People with Disabilities ACT Inc and Carers ACT.

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has joined disability and carer peak bodies in a call for urgent action to ensure people with disabilities, carers and disability service providers have clear advice and appropriate access to personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Emma Campbell, ACTCOSS CEO, said: “We are months into a pandemic and many people with disabilities are still waiting for access to various forms of PPE.

“Lack of PPE has caused people with disabilities, services and workers to cancel services that are essential to general wellbeing, health and social connection. This is leaving many people at risk.

“Despite repeated assurances that guidelines on access to PPE would be released, and that a simplified process to receive PPE in the ACT would be established, this has not happened. These issues were raised at the very start of the pandemic, and yet rollout has been slow and inconsistent.

“Commonwealth and Territory governments have responsibilities through the National Management and Operational Plan for People with Disability, yet we are seeing different processes and requirements in health, disability, the aged care system and through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

“While some organisations are starting to receive PPE, services and people with disability are confused about access. Unclear messaging has left organisations and consumers unsure whether to buy their own supplies or wait for PPE to become available from stockpiles.

“It is unacceptable that people with disability do not have choice and control over whether PPE is used in their care.

“The reality is that people with disabilities are unable to practice physical distancing while receiving in-home services where workers provide intimate personal care, food preparation and household cleaning. This includes people living in group settings who have limited choices about who is in their homes.

“The community sector is also waiting for clarity on isolation plans should a primary carer or an individual in a congregate living setting become infected with COVID-19. These remain important issues, given the potential for a rise in cases as social distancing requirements are relaxed.

“ACTCOSS is also yet to see a draft of the ethical framework that would be used by Canberra Health Services to determine access to intensive care in situations of heavy demand.

“We need urgent action on this issue and also look forward to the timely release of the ACT Government’s COVID-19 Disability Plan,” said Dr Campbell.

The President of People with Disabilities ACT, David Luck, said the equal provision of PPE was a necessity.

“The ACT Government has previously endorsed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Being disabled does not, and must not, make you a second-class citizen,” Mr Luck said.

Lisa Kelly, Chief Executive Officer of Carers ACT, said: “It is important now more than ever that we recognise the additional stressors on families of people with disabilities and we support family carers and all they do.”

For more information or comment, please contact:

Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910 617;

Mr Craig Shannon, Executive Director, People with Disabilities ACT Inc, on 0438 444 467;

Ms Lisa Kelly, CEO, Carers ACT, on 0411 203 530.

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