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NDIS funding now available to use on RATs

27 January 2022 at 4:53 pm
Luke Michael
But disability advocates say at-home COVID tests should be free for all people with disability 

Luke Michael | 27 January 2022 at 4:53 pm


NDIS funding now available to use on RATs
27 January 2022 at 4:53 pm

But disability advocates say at-home COVID tests should be free for all people with disability 

The federal government has announced that National Disability Insurance Scheme participants will be able use their core funding to buy Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs), in a bid to ensure continuity of support amid the Omicron wave.

After reports emerged that some participants were being forced to spend hundreds of dollars on RATs for their support workers, NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds confirmed that participants can buy RATs for themselves or their carers with funding from their NDIS plan.

Reynolds said NDIS participants would be able to claim RATs when it was needed to access their reasonable and necessary services. 

“We know that rapid antigen tests are an important tool for ensuring that participants continue to access their disability-related supports,” Reynolds said.

“This is another example of how we are supporting participants to use their funding flexibly during the COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure they continue to receive the disability-related supports they need.”

While disability groups support the move, they believe the announcement does not go far enough. 

In a statement on Twitter, People with Disability Australia said it “cautiously welcomes the decision”.

“However, we’re concerned that the government is requiring NDIS participants to source their own RATs and to spend their core funding. This funding is already allocated to pay for reasonable and necessary disability supports,” PWDA said.

“RATs should be free for all people with disability. 

“Also, only 10 [per cent] of people with disability are able to access the NDIS, so the majority of Australians with disability – many who are clinically vulnerable to the virus – are not getting the support they need to protect themselves from COVID-19.”

Newly crowned Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott – a wheelchair user and prominent disability advocate – echoed PWDA’s call, stating on Wednesday that there should be free access to RATs for all people with disability.

The Physical Disability Council of NSW also raised concerns on Twitter that this initiative would chip away at a participant’s plan funding, and said NDIS plan budgets should be increased when funds were “used prematurely to cover this substantial additional cost”. 

Concerns over National Cabinet’s Omicron response

The federal government’s announcement follows the release this week of a statement from disability groups criticising the government response to the Omicron wave.

The letter – endorsed by Australia’s peak disability representative organisations and sent to National Cabinet – said Australia’s federal, state and territory governments needed to do more to protect the lives and health of people with disability.

Advocates are particularly concerned about the decision to let disability support workers isolate for much shorter periods than Australia’s general population if they are close contacts of people with COVID.

“This change means that it is now inevitable that people with an active case of COVID will be around people with disability and can pass it on. We find this unacceptable,” the statement says. 

“As representatives of some of our most clinically vulnerable people, it is clear to us that governments’ let-it-rip approach is an ableist approach that does not value the lives of people with disability.”

The statement calls for a policy response that includes requiring disability service providers to develop COVID-19 emergency care plans related to staff shortages, and providing free personal protective equipment (PPE) and RATs for people with disability and support workers.

You can see the full statement here.

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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