map of Victoria with COVID-19 spore in a red target

The Australian and Victorian Governments have committed to enhancing preventative measures for the spread of COVID-19 in disability residential care through a  Disability Response Centre. 

Based on the experiences and lessons of the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre, this shared disability response coordination will be based within the State Control Centre, the centre of emergency management allowing relevant authorities to better share information and work rapidly to respond to outbreaks.

NDIS clients, carers and support workers are rightly anxious and concerned about COVID-19 outbreaks in disability residential services. Currently, there are 62 active cases in disability residential services. Of these active cases, 49 are staff members. 

The Victorian and Commonwealth Governments will work together to reduce the movement of staff between sites while supporting disability care workers, as the movement of staff between multiple sites is one of the highest risk causes of outbreaks in disability residential services.

Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers Luke Donnellan acknowledged systemic staffing issues which have the potential to exacerbate any outbreaks in disability services. 

“We know that due to high levels of casualisation in the workforce, staff working across multiple sites is a risk to themselves and clients”

Stage 4 restrictions put a legal obligation on service providers to restrict movement across sites as much as possible, but care arrangements typically involve care workers moving between multiple disability residential services.

The Victorian and Federal Governments will work together to support workers and providers to reduce movement between sites so that reducing shifts doesn’t mean reducing income for workers affected by the changes.

The Victorian Government acknowledges that this is a highly casualised workforce and that no one should have to choose between making the right decision to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and putting dinner on the table.

Read more: Live in Victoria - Need to know COVID-19 Info

A $15 million Worker Mobility Reduction Payment scheme to compensate disability residential service providers for delivering a “one worker-two sites” cap will be established. The funding will cover the lost hours of works for hard-working staff as well the higher cost of sourcing additional workers. The scheme will run up until December 2020 linked to public health workforce directions and there will be exceptions for emergency situations.

Over the coming days, governance and staffing arrangements will be finalised while the existing state-led Victorian Disability Rapid Response Group continues to manage outbreaks until the opening of the Centre next week.

The Centre will have senior officials from the National Disability Insurance Agency, NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, Commonwealth Department of Social Services, Victorian Department of Health and Services and public health leaders working together to protect Victorians with a disability.

Read more: FAQ COVID-19 from people with a disability in Victoria

Today’s announcement builds on the Victorian Government’s support to the disability sector throughout the pandemic, including:

• Establishing the initial Rapid Response Group to manage outbreaks through infection control procedures, deploying PPE, organising in-home testing and nursing support for residents.

• In addition to supports through the Commonwealth-led NDIS, the Victorian Government provided a $17 million package of supports to ensure all Victorians with a disability get the help they need, when they need it – including increased funding for advocacy, disability health liaison officers and infection control training.

• The Victorian Government also established a COVID-19 Disability Taskforce with members across the sector to ensure the actions we take are informed by needs on the ground.

• All disability support workers are required to wear a single-use surgical mask when at work at all times – this applies across the whole of Victoria and we have distributed over 545,000 single-use masks from our state stockpile to service providers.

• Workers who do not have access to sick leave who have to isolate while waiting for a test result are eligible to apply for a $450 payment through the Victorian Government, while the Federal Government funds a $1500 pandemic leave disaster payment for eligible Victorians directed to isolate as a confirmed case or close contact.

Premier Daniel Andrews spoke about the need to protect vulnerable members of the community such as people with a disability residing in disability residential care, from COVID-19. 

“Coronavirus doesn’t discriminate, but we know some Victorians are more vulnerable to this disease – that’s why we are all working together in this fight.”

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