NDS statement: Ongoing support for NDIS participants during coronavirus pandemic

The ABC online report, ‘Some Australians with a disability left without face-to-face care during coronavirus crisis‘, later featured as a report on ABC’s ‘7.30’ program, outlined instances where people with disability who are being supported under the NDIS have experienced changes to their services as a result of COVID-19.

In one instance a service provider introduced videoconferencing as a safe alternative to face to face consultation for a client requiring support for schizoaffective disorder and delusional disorder. In another, a participant and her family were impacted by a support worker who decided to cancel.

Disability service providers and their staff have shown enormous resilience and adaptability in the face of the greatest health crisis Australia has faced in a century. In maintaining high quality, safe support for people with disability, providers have been navigating a labyrinth of ambiguity that sees them responsible for their clients’ wellbeing, but also the health and safety of frontline staff.

Disability service providers are extremely mindful of their health and safety obligations and that their clients are often amongst the most vulnerable to the impacts of coronavirus and therefore measures have had to be taken to protect them.

As Australia’s peak representative body for non-government disability service organisations, National Disability Services (NDS) staunchly supports the regulatory framework overseen by the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission. However, disability service providers are also required to adhere to work health and safety laws and the specific measures introduced by each state and territory to combat COVID-19.

Where existing services could not be safely provided, disability service providers have been fulfilling their obligations under the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission to consult with and advise clients and to implement alternative arrangements in a timely manner.

Finding the right balance has no doubt created circumstances where some clients have felt dissatisfied. Some NDS members have reported difficulty in filling shifts because, just as numerous clients have decided to cancel their services to self-isolate, some support workers have also decided not to put themselves in the position of working within close proximity of others. This was certainly the case when access to PPE for the disability sector was virtually impossible, in the first month or so of the pandemic.

NDS hopes the Australian public appreciates the genuine care and concern that disability service providers have for their clients as the entire community tries its best to see off the pandemic.

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