Contrary to recent assertions from Stuart Robert in an ABC Radio interview with Nicole Chvastek and reported in an ABC online article, the disability sector is NOT satisfied with the level of COVID support it’s receiving from government, according to the peak body for disability service providers, National Disability Services.
‘There are still urgent and significant issues to address in terms of access to PPE, the potential loss of 20,000 jobs for disabled employees, the lack of disability support workers, and the funding of services,’ said David Moody, CEO of National Disability Services.
‘As it stands, disability service providers only get paid for services rendered, and with clients staying at home and socially isolating there is a danger many providers will go under and not survive corona.’
‘Even before Corona there were significant issues with this funding model. Last year half of service providers weren’t turning a profit so were already in a precarious position leading into COVID,’ said Mr Moody.
‘There are fixed overheads and staff to be paid so a model which says you only get paid when you provide services is disastrous in this climate. Not paying providers who were already in significant distress and who don’t have clients to service and bill the government for could lead to many services folding.’
‘What we need is for the government to assist us with that so that we have a viable sector on the other side of COVID,’ Mr Moody said.
Another significant area of concern is around employment. Besides not having any clear time line on when PPE will be applied to staff who work with an extremely susceptible cohort, there has been an issue finding staff.
‘Before the pandemic, our sector was the fastest growing sector in the Australian economy, providing jobs of the future for thousands of Australians. Now, as a sector, we need significant support from the Government to survive during the emergency period.
‘Gains made by the sector over the past few years, to attract and retain workers, will be lost,’ said Mr Moody.
The Government has made the payment available to charities that experience a 15 per cent decline in turnover as a result of the coronavirus, but NDS believes access to the JobKeeper Payment should be extended to all disability service providers experiencing a 15 per cent or greater decline, not just those with a charitable status.
‘All NDIS registered providers are subject to the same set fee structure, whether or not they are a charity,’ said Mr Moody.
‘The fact is, regardless of organisational structure, many disability service providers are reaching crisis point as more and more services close.’