ACT COVID-19 Disability Strategy
The ACT Government is and will remain committed to upholding the rights of people with disability and ensuring people with disability, their families, carers and the disability sector are supported through the COVID-19 health emergency.
The ACT Government has heard the concerns of Canberrans with disability and the disability sector and acknowledges that people with disability may face a range of additional and unique challenges and risks, during the COVID-19 health emergency.
Many people with disability are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and experiencing more severe health and social impacts from the virus and the associated public health measures that have been put in place.
In particular, people who also have underlying chronic health conditions, or where the nature of their disability makes it difficult to avoid contact with surfaces in the environment, or where their support needs require unavoidable close contact with people, require considered supports and targeted action to ensure they are adequately supported through the health emergency. It is also acknowledged that the rapid rate of change and disruptions to routines can cause substantial distress to many people.
The ACT Government recognises the need to ensure that important public health information is accessible, timely and sensitive to the needs of people with disability, their families, carers and the disability sector.
The ACT COVID-19 Disability Strategy (the Strategy) has been created to ensure that people with disability, their families, carers and the disability sector are supported through the COVID-19 health emergency and during the post-emergency transition.
The Strategy will be supported by an action plan that will be regularly updated, enabling the ACT Government to be flexible and responsive to the changing environment.
The ACT COVID-19 Disability Strategy provides an overview of the ACT commitment to people with disability. There are additional resources for people with disability and their supporters on the COVID-19 Community Service Information webpage. These resources include a planning tool for people with disability during COVID-19, and other resources available for people with disability to support your health, family, livelihood and other assistance in your community.
Background and Introduction
The Strategy will inform how people with disability, their families, carers and the disability sector are supported through the COVID-19 health emergency in the ACT.
Since the Public Health Emergency was announced people with disability and their supporters have indicated that they are concerned that they:
- will not be supported through the crisis;
- will be disadvantaged and more severely impacted in accessing the health system;
- are more likely to experience symptoms of the virus;
- experience a lack of vital personal protective equipment and hygiene supplies; and
- experience increased vulnerability as a result of social distancing measures.
A broad range of concerns have been raised through national media, position statements by academics, social media, e-newsletters and a statement by the Chair of the Disability Royal Commission. Including raising concerns and seeking actions by governments, to limit the impact of COVID-19 and maintain good mental health and wellbeing of people with disability and supporters.
The public commentary outlines the dependence on:
- human contact for life sustaining personal support and consequentially the challenges and risks for implementing physical distancing measures when there is a reliance on in-home and personal support for everyday basic needs;
- the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) and hygiene supplies;
- access to services; food; medicines and consumables;
- accessible communication; and
- assurances that people with disability will not be discriminated against when accessing health systems.
There is also uncertainty as to whether further staged restrictions, if they came into effect, would inhibit disability advocacy and support coordination services from being able provide face-to-face support for people with disability, who may require this support in order to understand information.
The Strategy intends to be flexible and responsive to the ongoing threat and disruption caused by COVID-19 as the pandemic continues, and during the post-emergency transition to ‘business as usual’, noting anxieties are likely to remain high until the threat of another outbreak is mitigated.
This Strategy has been developed to enable a targeted approach to supporting people with disability through:
- listening to the issues raised by people with disability and supporters;
- talking about the issues experienced by people with disability; and
- taking action informed by the views and needs of people with disability.
- People with disability, their families and carers;
- Disability services; and
- Broader community and health supports and services.
Goals and Objectives
- People with disability will be engaged to inform communication and supports.
- Reliable communication is key to establish trust and alleviate fears for people with disability and the disability sector; targeted messages will be shared through channels that people trust, in accessible formats.
- People with disability are at higher risk of experiencing more severe health, social and financial impacts from COVID-19, including:
- a higher rate of mortality;
- multiple health comorbidities;
- greater risk of social isolation;
- poorer social networks;
- more likely to live in poverty; and
- dependence on other people for tasks of daily living.
- All engagements, activities and messaging will take into consideration the disability supports provided by National, State and Territory sources, including the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), ACT Government, community and not-for-profit organisations.
- Australian Government’s Health Department and ACT Health are the primary sources of advice and information on COVID-19 and health-related issues.
- People with disability include the 77,300 Canberrans who experience long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment. When combined with various environmental barriers, such impairments may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.
- People with disability and their supporters will understand what do to and how to access support during this health emergency because the communication to them will be clear, targeted, unambiguous and delivered by trusted sources in accessible formats.
- People will have access to appropriate PPE and hygiene products, food, medications and consumables because there will be targeted messaging and supports to ensure that they do.
- People with disability will have adequate personal supports, because there will be engagement with providers to ensure continuity of essential services, guidelines for safe personal engagement, training for support workers on how to stay safe and standby capacity developed for the sector.
- People with disability will continue to have access to emergency supports including access to emergency accommodation.
- People with disability will know that their needs have been considered by Health providers, as the ACT Government will develop messaging aimed at people with disability (and other vulnerable cohorts) providing advice and assurances, that their lives count. There will be a range of health-related actions that are responsive and targeted to people with disability and their supporters.
- People with disability and supporters will be provided assistance, to reduce the impact of social isolation and build social solidarity and connection.
- People with disability will have the economic impact of the health crisis recognised and actions taken to reduce the impact of financial disadvantage, because the current environment will create hardship and additional strains for people without work, savings and financial resources.
- People with disability will remain safe as the potential for increased violence, abuse and neglect increases due to social isolation and disruption of safe, daily routines particularly in congregated settings such as group homes. People with disability and their families will be safe because their needs will be considered in all activities to ensure wellness, health, family safety, social connection and community resilience.
If you have any questions, comments or require this document in an alternative format, please contact the ACT Office for Disability.
Phone: (02) 6207 1086