New plan to protect people with disability from COVID-19
22 April 2020 at 11:57 am
The strategy has a strong focus on upholding the rights of people with disability
The federal government has unveiled a targeted plan to help manage and prevent the transmission of COVID-19 for people with disability.
The national cabinet released the plan last week, after consulting with people with lived experience, Disabled People’s Organisations, and those across the disability, research and healthcare sectors.
The plan looks at potential issues for people with disability including reliance on close contact with carers and support workers, vulnerability to respiratory illnesses, and barriers to receiving health care.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the strategy would save the lives of vulnerable people.
“Some people with disability are significantly more at risk of adverse health outcomes if they become infected with coronavirus than the general population – this plan will ensure our support is joined up for these at risk groups,” Hunt said.
Social Services Minister Anne Ruston added that everyone had a part to play in protecting the disability community from COVID-19.
“All governments, the disability sector and the community play a role in minimising the risk of harm and protecting the rights of people with disability,” Ruston said.
“This plan provides us with the framework to do this during the pandemic.”
The strategy has a strong focus on the rights of people with disability, with the expectation that people with disability receive the same standards of health care as others in the community during the crisis.
It also sets out how the disability workforce can best prepare for the pandemic, including by developing specific individual health care plans for people to ensure health and support needs are documented and immediately accessible.
The Council for Intellectual Disability (CID) welcomed the release of the plan and said it must be implemented quickly and fully.
In a statement, CID said it was working with NSW Health on the plan’s implementation, while its colleagues in Queensland were working with the state’s health department on a coronavirus disability advisory group.
“We urge people in other states and territories to advocate with their health department to make sure they are acting on the national plan and in collaboration with the disability community,” CID said.
“As well as the health focused issues in the plan, much needs to happen to make sure people with disability continue to receive necessary disability support during the pandemic.”
Jeff Smith, the CEO of People with Disability Australia, told Pro Bono News he was pleased that the federal government has listened to the disability community and put forward a plan.
He said advocates would be keeping an eye on governments to ensure the plan is properly implemented.
“We have been raising, for some time, the considerable risks that people with disability face with COVID-19, and the existing substantial barriers we face when seeking adequate health care,” Smith said.
“People with disability are concerned that they may not get equal treatment if they get sick with COVID-19, so we will be monitoring this closely.”