wheelchair user holding a surgical mask

On Thursday, April 16th, National Cabinet (State, Territory and Federal leaders) agreed to release the Management and Operational Plan for COVID-19 for People with Disability.

The Plan forms part of the national response developed by the Australian Government and is aligned to the Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Coronavirus (COVID-19) with representation from a range of backgrounds including people with lived experience, Disabled Peoples Organisations, the disability service sector, the research sector, the healthcare sector including medical practitioners and nursing, disability advocates, Australian Government officials, and state and territory government officials.

National Cabinet also agreed to begin carrying out the plan to make sure people with disability get the health care, support and help they need, where and when they need it. Almost 20% of Australians (or roughly 1 in 5 people) have a disability.

Numerous strategies refer to the need for clear, accessible communication and information at this time, both on and offline methods so that all people with a disability and their supporters have timely access to critical information. Some key points from the document for people with disability to better defend themselves from Coronavirus (COVID-19) are:

Minister for Health Greg Hunt MP said this practical and comprehensive plan will 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–this plan will ensure our support is joined up for these at-risk groups.’

The Plan looks at potential issues relating to people with disability during the COVID-19 crisis such as reliance on close contact with carers and support workers, having a compromised immune system, and the presence of multiple underlying health conditions.

Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator the Hon. Anne Ruston said an advisory committee with expertise across the health and disability sectors and people with lived experience, including Disability Discrimination Commissioner Dr Ben Gauntlett, had overseen the development of the plan.

‘All governments, the disability sector and the community play a role in minimising the risk of harm and protecting the rights of people with disability. This Plan provides us with the framework to do this during the pandemic.’

Minister for the NDIS and Government Services, Stuart Robert MP said the plan supports the extensive measures all governments have enacted to support the safety of Australians with disability and NDIS participants, reducing their exposure to the virus and maintaining essential services.

‘The Australian Government has injected over $1 billion into supporting Australians with [a] disability during this difficult time, and have announced measures to ensure NDIS participants have access to essential supports, and to give NDIS service providers some financial relief to help them remain viable and retain their staff.’

This plan is part of the Australian Government’s $2.4 billion COVID-19 National Health Plan commitment announced by the Prime Minister on 11 March 2020. The 36-page document is available to download and read from the Australian Government now but may change. It is referred to as a 'live' document. 

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