HOW THE GOVERNMENT HAS FAILED IN IT’S COVID-19 MESSAGING TO THE AUTISM COMMUNITY
Currently in Australia we have survived our first spike/round of COVID-19, our government are very pleased with us, they rejoice and decide that seeing as we’ve been such good girls and boy’s we can begin slowly mind to have some of those restrictions eased, but there’s a catch. Isn’t there always with things like getting rewarded? The catch is that they want millions more, more than the current 4 million Aussies who have downloaded the app and can sit back smugly waiting for everyone else to get on the download the COVID-19 APP train.
And so, another week begins in Australia, with the messaging still being directed as everyday Aussies and not at the disability community.
It feels like we’ve been left to forage in the woods alone at night, and we haven’t been given any equipment like a torch or a map or more importantly a compass.
So we blindly fumble our way around seeking out any scrap of information that we can digest and decode in order for it to make sense to us and whilst we’re outside in the woods, the government sits around in a warm building, safe in the knowledge that everyone else in Australia has a clear understanding of the current rules and regulations and guidelines currently in place.
Well, here’s the thing we don’t, and we never have.
I for one am having to seek out my answers via multiple Autism websites which is where I’m sure that others on the Autism spectrum are doing the same.
After my opinion piece last week and following on from other notable disability advocates and leading disabled politicians speaking out, not much appears to have altered in terms of clearer messaging and when the disabled community will be invited in so that our concerns can be heard.
You’d think that following on from the Royal Commissions damming report where it outlined the governments failings in the matter that our prime minister would have taken notice and began to act?
No, sadly not.
The Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Stuart Robert said on the 21st March 2020 via a media release the following
- Media release from the Minister
21 March 2020
- NDIS plans to be extended by up to 24 months, ensuring continuity of support and increasing capacity of NDIA staff to focus on urgent and required changes to plans.
- Face to face planning shifted to telephone meetings where possible.
- Action plan to ensure NDIS participants and their families continue to receive the essential disability supports they need.
- Proactive outreach to high-risk participants and sharing of data with states and territories to ensure continuity of supports.
- Financial assistance to providers to support retention of workers including advance payments, 10 per cent COVID-19 loading on some supports and changes to cancellation policies.
Following discussions of the COAG Disability Reform Council, Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Stuart Robert, today announced new measures to ensure essential support is in place for NDIS participants, workers and providers through the COVID-19 outbreak.
‘We have been consulting with NDIS, disability and health stakeholders to understand what actions we need to take to minimise the impact that COVID-19 may have on people with disability, their families, and the network of providers and workers that support them,’ Mr Robert said.
‘We have a concerted and responsive plan of action to ensure that people with disability can continue to receive the support they need, and that providers have what they need to continue delivering their essential services in these extraordinary circumstances.
‘I also want to be clear, we can and will make further changes as required. The Department of Social Services, National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) and NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission (NDIS Commission), are working with the Department of Health, states and territories, and NDIS stakeholders to monitor our response and will make further recommendations if required.’
To allow NDIA staff to direct their focus on urgent changes to participant plans as a result of the impacts of COVID-19, we have allowed NDIS plans to be extended by up to 24 months, ensuring continuity of support.
Telephone meetings are being offered to all current and potential NDIS participants as a safer way to continue service delivery, including for new plans and plan reviews, during the current phase of the COVID 19 outbreak.
The NDIA will also take a flexible approach to amending plans and, where necessary, shift capacity building funding to funding for core supports, in consultation with special teams of planners in the NDIA.
Access to essential supports for NDIS participants is a priority in the COVID-19 response.
‘We are closely monitoring for any new service gaps that might open. If usual services cannot be delivered by a provider, the NDIA will work with states and territories to source an alternative provider who can step in to provide the required essential services,’ Mr Robert said.
Participants should contact the NDIA on 1800 800 110 if they need to talk to a planner, make changes to their plan or are having trouble sourcing services due to COVID-19.
Importantly, the new measures work to identify and give extra support to those people with disability who have complex needs or run a higher risk of infection.
‘The NDIA will be contacting targeted higher risk NDIS participants to ensure these people continue to receive the essential disability related supports they need, while also sharing the same data with states and territories to assist them with their continuity of services,’ Mr Robert said.
More information for NDIS participants and their families and carers is available on the NDIS website.
‘We are also providing financial assistance to help NDIS providers remain viable and to retain their staff,’ Mr Robert said.
Registered NDIS providers may receive a one-month advance payment based on a monthly average support delivered in the previous three-month period – to provide immediate cash flow relief.
To cover the additional costs of service delivery for existing supports, a 10 per cent COVID-19 loading will be added to price limits for certain supports for up to six months.
Additionally, increased flexibility of the NDIA’s cancellation pricing policy will allow providers to charge the full 100 per cent for the price of a cancelled service, and the definition of ‘short notice cancellation’ will also be broadened.
Further work is currently underway to develop measures to source additional disability support workers to provide high quality care to NDIS participants should the need arise. This will include the upskilling of displaced workers from other industries and matching existing and new workers to areas where there is a demand for services.
The Department of Health has developed specific advice on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when looking after people who are confirmed to have, or suspected of having, COVID-19.
There is also a free training module for support workers, including those in the disability sector, about infection prevention and control for COVID-19.
Further information on COVID-19, what people can do to protect themselves and people they are caring for is available at www.health.gov.au or on 1800 020 080.
That week I closely monitored the news on all channel’s, and I didn’t see anything being reported other than the story of Stuarts media release.
Maybe they had other more important issues to cover?
Then our prime minister released an updated statement and having read it and understood some of what he was saying you’ll notice that any mention of the NDIS, the disability community and anything relating to that are missing. A typo perhaps?
How the messaging should have been delivered to the Autism community and one that would have benefitted a lot of Autistic people would have been in the form of a visual story like the posters you’ll see below.
And this poster
Other excellent messaging can be found here
Personally I’m angry at being left out in the cold and not invited inside for a hot cup of tea and a biscuit and to sit around presumably at a ZOOM meeting whereby every one who is associated with the Autism community could voice their opinions and offer up solutions to the current COVID-19 modelling.
But mostly I’m disappointed in our government.
I feel let down and left out and not worthy of being included in such an important time when as the current messaging is telling us #we’reallinthistogether but are we?
From the government’s current perspective clearly not.
Carry On The Conversation