The disability royal commission has issued a statement of concern about the impact of COVID-19 on people with disability calling on all governments to ensure they  protected and supported during the pandemic.

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability has postponed public hearings during the outbreak but says it still wants to hear the experience of people with disability with respect to the government and community response to coronavirus.

“It is within the terms of reference of the Royal Commission to investigate the extent to which people with disability have experienced violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation as a consequence of any lack of coordinated action to address their particular needs in this time of crisis,” the commission says.

The statement calls for specific strategies targeting people with disabilities, who may also be at increased risk because of co-morbidities and underlying chronic health conditions, in all  emergency planning.

Fear of being left behind

The commission says it’s heard directly from people with disability who are anxious about coronavirus and fear being left behind. It has also heard stories of barriers to COVID-19 screening and treatment, and difficulties getting hold of hand sanitisers and personal protective gear.

“The Royal Commission calls on the government to take all reasonable steps to ensure access to and the provision of appropriate health care to all persons with disability,” it says.

Group facilities

Another concern raised in the statement concerns people with disability living group homes, prisons and mental health facilities.

The commission notes that while lockdowns of facilities are necessary to prevent the disease spreading it can have the unintended consequence of exposing residents to an increased risk of violence, abuse and neglect, because of lack of oversight from family members and other advocates. “The Royal Commission encourages governments to implement all necessary measures to protect and support people with disability in residential settings during the pandemic,” it says.

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