National Disability Insurance Scheme participants in New South Wales and Victoria who rely on face-to-face supports will now be able to use NDIS funding to buy masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE), the federal government has announced.
NDIS Minister Stuart Robert said on Wednesday these temporary changes would ensure at-risk participants were supported to access PPE while receiving disability care.
“Unfortunately we’ve seen in recent weeks that our battle with COVID-19 is far from over,” Robert said.
“As a result, we have put in place additional temporary measures so participants living in Victoria and New South Wales, who have face-to-face assisted daily living supports can flexibly use their existing NDIS funds to cover the cost of the PPE they need to keep themselves safe, including face masks.
“We know that participants who receive face-to-face supports may be at higher risk of transmission, with daily support from their workers regularly involving close physical contact.”
Under the changes, NDIS participants who rely on daily face-to-face supports will be able to use an existing support item (Low-Cost Disability-Related Health Consumables) to claim work on the cost of PPE for when their work is with them.
This move has been welcomed by disability advocates, who had been critical of the NDIS in recent days over a lack of clarity around when funding can be used to buy masks. Every Australian Counts campaign director Kirsten Deane told Pro Bono News it was great to see common sense prevail and the minister and the NDIS take action.
“There’s been so much confusion and anxiety over the last couple of weeks so it is really good to see the NDIS respond today,” Deane said.
“We just want to make sure that people with disability and their families have whatever they need to keep themselves safe and well. That should be everyone’s priority.”
El Gibbs, the director of media and communications at People with Disability Australia, also praised the move.
But she said she would like to see the government extend the availability of PPE further.
“People with disability have told us that they have found it hard to access enough PPE to stay safe from COVID-19,” Gibbs told Pro Bono News.
“Many people with disability across Australia are at high risk of COVID-19, and will remain on lockdown for a long time, so we hope the minister considers rolling this out to all people with a disability that need access to PPE.”
This ability to claim for the cost of PPE will also be extended to Victorian and NSW disability providers – who have previously had to foot the bill for PPE themselves.
David Moody, the CEO of peak provider body National Disability Services, told Pro Bono News this move made “perfect sense” and would help lessen costs for organisations.
“The added expense for both participants and providers as a result of the pandemic has been significant, and removing this cost burden to maintaining safety for support workers and their clients… takes some pressure off,” Moody said.
Minister Robert also announced on Wednesday that NDIS participants living in their own home who contract COVID-19 will now be able to claim for related cleaning costs during the quarantine.
He added there would be an extension of existing measures offering additional funding for Supported Independent Living (SIL) providers where there was a confirmed COVID-19 case.
“The health and wellbeing of participants and their support workers have remained the government’s priority throughout this pandemic, and it’s important none of us gets complacent,” he said.
“These measures ensure everyone’s able to do their bit, and follow the public health guidelines while minimising the risk of spread and protecting each other from the virus.
“We will continue to monitor the situation and won’t hesitate to implement further measures if it means protecting our participants and their support workers.”