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Home > AUSTRALIA > Disability sector fights labor shortages amid COVID outbreaks | The Canberra Times

Disability sector fights labor shortages amid COVID outbreaks | The Canberra Times

Disability sector fights labor shortages amid COVID outbreaks |  The Canberra Times

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Backup workforces have been set up to cover the shortage of mass staff in Canberra’s disability sector caused by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. The Commonwealth has also agreed to give Territory-based NDIS providers access to a special workforce in response to a request from the Barr government. But providers, unions and the ACT government are still pushing for further support, including financial assistance, amid fears that the worst is yet to come. The handicap workforce has been shaken by major disruptions through the capital’s biggest outbreak, with support staff among the thousands of Canberrans forced to be isolated over the past four weeks. Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith revealed on Friday that a total of 44 cases were now linked to the sector, including 34 support workers and allied health workers and 10 people with a disability. READ MORE COVID-19 NEWS: Competent Australia ACT Manager Jessi Claudianos said her team of more than 40 employees had been hit by the disruptions that resonated across the sector. She said that in addition to labor shortages, there was a constant fear that staff would be exposed to COVID-19 and then inadvertently spread it to the vulnerable customers they worked with. “There is a lot of anxiety in people with disabilities,” she said. “This is their chosen profession, and they are often quite unrewarded by the rest of society. They are unseen heroes who work really hard to protect some of the most vulnerable people.” But there is always a risk that they will be exposed. “Three-quarters of ACT’s NDIS-screened workers have received at least one dose of the vaccine, of which 55 percent are fully vaccinated. NDS ACT Manager Kerrie Langford said providers had at times had up to 50 percent of their staff in forced isolation, while relocated workers were able to stop gaps when given sufficient notice, said Langford said it was difficult to respond to crisis situations. “If there is a crisis where you know there is something that is extraordinarily complex, or someone has very complex needs and needs support, to try to find out of that support can be very, very problematic, ”she said. “While we can capture the more medium to long-term demands, this crisis is a concern.” The Australian Services Union, which represents people with disabilities, has also set up its own workforce. “We have asked our 16,000 members across NSW and the ACT if … they would like to raise their hand to make extra guards and help local services in their community,” said the union’s assistant secretary, Angus McFarland. The Canberra Times reported last week that ACT Minister for Disability Emma Davidson had written to her federal counterpart Linda Reynolds to request financial support and workforce for providers. The letter was sent on August 27, but Senator Reynolds’ office did not receive it until last week after it was inadvertently sent to the wrong address. The Commonwealth has accepted one of Mrs Davidson’s requests confirming that the National Disability Insurance Agency would provide ACT – based providers with access to assistance from one of the providers in NSW’s “contingent workforce panel”. Mrs Davidson had also sought financial assistance from Canberra providers, similar to what had been offered in Sydney’s coronavirus hotspot areas. Senator Reynolds’ office did not explicitly rule out cash assistance to ACT providers, but noted that the majority of the support was already offered nationwide. Ms Davidson said this week that she would continue to advocate for help for the sector. “The disability staff at ACT are great at supporting our community, but they are stretched and often work across multiple locations and organizations,” she said. “Although Community transfer is still in the ACT, I am concerned about the potential shortage of labor if workers were to go into a 14-day quarantine.” This is a high-risk community when it comes to COVID-19, for both people with disabilities and workers, so it is important that we identify ways to keep them safe and supported during this time. “Our journalists work hard to deliver local, up-to-date news to the community. Here’s how you can continue to access our trusted content:


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