New survey reveals the financial costs of COVID-19 for people with disability
10 June 2020 at 4:27 pm
More than 90 per cent of people with disability have seen their expenses increase
People with disability are facing financial hardship and going days without food during the COVID-19 pandemic, new research reveals.
A survey from People with Disability Australia (PWDA) found that nine in 10 people with disability have experienced increased expenses due to the ongoing pandemic.
The 204 survey respondents reported spending more on food and groceries (58 per cent), healthcare (31 per cent), internet and phone (26 per cent), and sanitising and hygiene equipment (20 per cent).
“[A] rise in groceries plus having to travel for medical appointments is putting me in financial hardship,” one respondent said.
Another added: “I have to go with no food some days so I can pay for my medications and transport is expensive.”
El Gibbs, PWDA’s director of media and communications, said many of these people already lived in poverty and relied on income supports such as the Disability Support Pension (DSP).
“But those on the DSP were not eligible for the coronavirus supplement that would have gone some way towards alleviating these increased costs,” Gibbs said.
Another key issue identified for people with disability was the continuation of essential supports during the pandemic.
Gibbs said the switch to telehealth options was a good move, and should remain available in the future.
“Our survey showed that both [National Disability Insurance Scheme] and non-NDIS supports were affected by the pandemic, with over 40 per cent of people with disability reporting less support,” she said.
“We are pleased to see the rapid move to using telehealth facilities, and our survey shows that many people with disability have accessed healthcare in this way.”
New banning powers outlined to protect NDIS participants
These findings come amid an announcement that the Morrison government will look to ban unsuitable providers and workers from entering the NDIS.
NDIS Minister Stuart Robert said on Monday that the government would introduce legislation to expand the NDIS quality and safeguards commissioner’s power to prevent potentially dodgy people from working with scheme participants.
Robert said the commissioner would be able to apply banning orders to people even if they were not currently working in the NDIS.
“This means workers who have left the NDIS, including where they have been fired due to unsuitable behaviour, can be banned from re-entering the field,” Robert said.
“The amendments also mean the NDIS commissioner can use information from sources outside the NDIS, such as a person’s conduct in aged care or child care work, to ban an unsuitable person from entering the NDIS in the first place.”
PWDA has welcomed the announcement, with Gibbs telling Pro Bono News it was the first step towards improving the safeguards for people with disability that use the NDIS.
“The recent death of Ann-Marie Smith, and other abuse of people with disability, have exposed the many gaps that exist in the current system,” she said.
“The next step needs to be ensuring that the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission has the powers and resources to proactively investigate and conduct random spot-checks on disability support providers.”
Gibbs added that the Disability Royal Commission also needs to hold a holistic inquiry into all safeguarding systems, inside and outside the NDIS.