Families of children with disability left in the dark during COVID-19 crisis
20 March 2020 at 3:31 pm
Disability advocates say governments across Australia need to better communicate their plans for at-risk groups
More than 80 per cent of families of children with disability have been unable to buy essential supplies during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new study.
A survey of over 200 families by the Australian Coalition for Inclusive Education (ACIE) and Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) found that COVID-19 was causing havoc and fear for the disability community.
Families said they felt frustrated by the lack of Auslan interpreters on broadcasted public health announcements, the mixed messages from the education sector around social distancing, and not knowing if vital support will continue if carers are quarantined.
During the pandemic, 86 per cent said they weren’t receiving the information needed to keep their families safe during the crisis, and 82 per cent have not been able to buy essential supplies for their children with disability.
More than a third (34 per cent) had support workers or other National Disability Insurance Scheme services cancelled, while 15 per cent have been unable to buy medication for their kids.
ACIE and CYDA said the Disability Reform Council – made up of state, territory and federal disability ministers – must come up with an immediate action plan to implement an inclusive approach for children and young people with disability.
CYDA CEO Mary Sayers said these kids already faced a hard enough time gaining an inclusive education without unnecessary confusion around the coronavirus.
“Governments across Australia need to take decisive and immediate actions for [the many families] who are worried that their kids with disability could be seriously harmed by Australia’s confusing approach to managing COVID-19 among at-risk groups, including immunosuppressed kids,” Sayers said.
“We understand the sands are continually shifting as new information about COVID-19 comes to light, but what’s not going to change is the measures that need to be taken to ensure kids with disability aren’t compromised more than other kids.
Sue Tape, whose eight-year-old daughter Eliza has Rubinstein Taybi syndrome, said the time for talking was over.
“Surely the time has come for some decisive and pre-emptive action when it comes to protecting our kids,” Tape said.
“The confusion has to end now.”