Survey: Disability Sector Abandoned

Thursday 13 January 2022

The Australian Services Union is calling on the Commonwealth and NSW Governments to urgently provide support for essential disability services workers, including paid isolation leave, priority booster vaccinations and adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

A survey of 700 ASU members has found more than one in ten working in the NDIS have contracted COVID since November.

Acting Secretary Angus McFarland spoke to the Sydney Morning Herald and Business Insider about the crisis. Of those who caught the virus, 23 per cent did not have access to paid leave from their employer and did not have access to any Government payments.

Further, 13 per cent of disability sector members have supported an NDIS participant they knew was COVID positive in the last month. Of those members, 30 per cent were not provided with PPE beyond standard face masks and less than half were given Rapid Antigen Tests.

The survey also found one in three NDIS workers have had to isolate after being deemed a close contact. Of those members, 31 per cent had no access to any form of paid leave and did not have access to any Government payments.

Australian Services Union NSW / ACT (Services) Branch Acting Secretary Angus McFarland has sent letters to NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds and NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet requesting immediate support.

"Our members are under extreme pressure due to the current COVID outbreak. They are on the frontline, putting their own health and wellbeing at risk to support vulnerable people and communities,” Mr McFarland said.

“As a result, they are getting infected with the virus or becoming close contacts and having to take time off work without pay.

“The NSW and Commonwealth Governments’ welfare payments are clearly not fit for purpose and a universal isolating leave scheme is required urgently.

“P2/N95 masks and eye protection should also be made available to staff immediately with NSW Health’s own Clinical Excellence Commission stating the level of protection they provide makes the difference between who is considered a close contact and who is not.

“Rapid Antigen Tests also need to be made available for free to all essential workers to support them to provide services safely and to protect their family and household.

“It is a travesty that low-income workers in the disability sector have been ordered to source and purchase RATs themselves to make themselves eligible to continue their essential work.

“With only 31 per cent of our members having received a booster shot as of today, priority access for booster shots at vaccination sites for essential workers should also be implemented.

“Essential disability services workers and those who rely on them should not have to suffer because the Commonwealth and NSW Governments failed to plan before unleashing Omicron on the community.”

"I joined the union to ensure that we can have good conditions...the ASU stands by your side.”
ASU member