The Australian Government has launched its COVID-19 management plan for people with disability following concerns that the nation’s 4.4 million people with disability and their carers had been left out of national pandemic planning.

Greg Hunt

The Management and Operational Plan for People with Disability, released by the national cabinet last Thursday, provides guidance on preventing and managing COVID-19 for people with disability, their families, carers, support workers and the disability and care sector.

It covers a range of issues including the epidemiology of the disease in the disability community, how it can affect people with disability and their carers, and management and impact of public health measures like isolation and quarantine.

The plan also covers safeguards, planning, research and exiting at the end of the pandemic.

‘Practical and comprehensive’

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt descrbied it as a practical and comprehensive plan that would save and protect some of Australia’s most vulnerable.

“Some people with disability are significantly more at risk of adverse health outcomes if they become infected with coronavirus than the general population,” Mr Hunt said. “This plan will ensure our support is joined up for these at risk groups.”

The plan was overseen by an expert advisory committee including Disability Discrimination Commissioner Ben Gauntlett.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston said government, the disability sector and the community all needed to play a role in minimising the risk of harm and protecting the rights of people with disability during COVID-19.

“This Plan provides us with the framework to do this during the pandemic,” she said.

The plan will be updated as new evidence emerges. 

Emergency response discussion paper

Meanwhile the Disability Royal Commission has released an emergency planning and response discussion paper seeking information about the experiences of people with disability during emergencies, including the recent bushfires and the coronavirus pandemic.

Commissioner Ronald Sackville

The paper seeks feedback about what can be done to improve the safety and wellbeing of people with disability during similar emergencies in the future and to ensure they are not at risk of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation during emergencies.

The paper covers inssues includiung access to support, accessible disasater information, issues associated with lockdown, safeguards and oversight and community participation.

Chair Ronald Sackville says The Royal Commission is interested in understanding the particular experiences of people with disability in closed environments and segregated settings as well as people with disability from First Nations and culturally and linguistically diverse communities, women, children and young people and LGBTQ people.   

“The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic our country is facing comes just months after the summer bushfire crisis. Both of these events have had a profound effect on the Australian population,” Commissioner Sackville said.

 “We already know that people with disability can be severely affected by emergencies and may be at a higher risk of experiencing violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation at these times,” he said.

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