DISABILITY SUPPORT WORKERS EXCLUDED FROM FREE RATS, LEAVING THE MOST VULNERABLE EXPOSED
Updated: Sep 19
Australians with disabilities are among those suffering the worst of Omicron’s impacts, yet they seem to have been forgotten. With an estimated 91,000 disability support workers employed in Australia, many people like Jodie Drummond are at a loss to understand why the government has not authorised free rapid antigen tests (RATs) for all disability support workers.
Jodie’s daughter Kyra cannot communicate verbally, use her left hand, or walk so she requires full time disability support for all her personal care and to live access her life and access the community.
Kyra lives in specialist disability accommodation (SDA) with other people with disabilities. Between them, they have up to 15 support workers coming in and out of the home to care for their clients throughout a 24-hour period.
It is currently not a requirement for disability support workers to test prior to each shift, which is leaving the SDA residents open to ongoing exposure to COVID-19 and ongoing periods of isolation.
“This week Kyra is isolating for seven days because one of her disability support workers, who is considered a household contact, supported Kyra while infected with COVID-19,” Jodie explains.
Now that the virus is so prevalent, the chances of disability support workers continuing to enter Kyra’s home and support her while infected, is extremely high. It also means that Kyra could be exposed to ongoing isolation.
Cerebral Palsy Support Network’s (CPSN) General Manager of Operations and Client Outcomes, Kellie O’Shea, says people with disability are just as vulnerable and exposed to COVID-19 as those living in aged care facilities.
“It feels like the government often forgets about individuals with disabilities and the people that care for them, and that extended isolation exemptions won’t relieve any pressure. It makes no sense that the Australian Government is providing access to RAT kits for aged care facilities and schools, but not to those with a disability,” Kellie said.
Jodie is urging Government to fund RATs for all disability support workers and mandate that they test before the commencement of each shift.
“Kyra does not deserve to spend her days in isolation, unable to make any real plans because she is forced into home isolation due to the high probability of being a household contact to COVID-19”.
“She has an active, stimulating life outside of her home. Kyra volunteers, participates and contributes to our community. Kyra is unable to make any plans because she is forced into home isolation due to the high probability of being a household contact,” she explains. Each time Kyra must isolate in her group home, her parents and family are not able to physically see her, instead they can only share conversations and meals through Kyra’s bedroom window.
CPSN says Jodie and her family are not alone. Kellie says that even though RATs are now able to be funded through the NDIS, individuals and their families may have to choose between keeping themselves safe, or funding much needed supports and therapies. “RATs should be free for all people with disability, just as it is for aged care workers and parents of primary school children,” Kellie says.
Have you or a loved one feel the same as Jodie? Please sign her petition urging the Government to prioritise the disability community and make RATs available for free for disability support workers and mandate that they test prior to each shift.