Royal Commission on Disability

Negative findings in Covid response report

Lack of a Covid plan to protect Australians with disability was a “serious failure” of government at the start of the pandemic, according to a report from the Royal Commission on Disability tabled in parliament on 26 November.

The report says that no government agency “made any significant effort to consult with people with disability or their representative organisations” at start of pandemic. The report further said that the lack of consultation and lack of an early plan “produced serious adverse consequences for many people with disability”.

It said people with disabilities faced the “sudden loss of essential support services” and “impaired health and wellbeing” due to an “inability for prolonged periods to access essential supplies such as food and medications”. People with disabilities experienced “extreme stress and anxiety” stemming from the fear of contracting the virus because of support staffing issues and a lack of PPE (personal protective equipment).

The report stated that the government established an advisory committee on the response to coronavirus for people with disability on 2 April. While noting that this was a “positive development” it should have happened sooner, and that the committee or a similar body should continue after the pandemic, the report said.

The report recommended that the government establish and implement formal mechanisms for consulting and involving people with disability, including providing funding. The report resulted from hearings focused on the pandemic that the Royal Commission held in late August. The commission criticised the government’s failure to collect or publish statistics on how many people with disability had contracted or died from the virus. The overall deficiencies in data collection led to their being no “accurate picture of the infection and mortality rates from Covid-19 for people with disability throughout Australia”.

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