Minister's Hunt and Robert, Chief Medical Officer and NDIS Commissioner - Support for Disability Service Providers during COVID-19

26 March 2020

Dear Minister Hunt, Minster Robert, Chief Medical Officer, Mr Hoffman and Commissioner Head,


I write to express concern about the lack of support being provided for disability service providers, disability support workers and Australians with a disability who receive support from these services, including NDIS participants.

Disability service providers in the ACT have contacted me with serious concerns about the lack of advice from Government and the NDIS in relation to COVID-19. These service providers want two things: clear advice on how to protect workers and clients, as well as access to personal protective equipment (PPE) from the national stockpile.

Service providers have recently been advised to request PPE from the national stockpile via an email address ([email protected]), only to be told they are not a high priority and will not receive it.

It is common knowledge that PPE is in short supply, but it is also commonly known following Minister Hunt’s media on the issue, that more will be available soon.

I urge you all to provide clear health and operational advice to disability service providers, in addition to a commitment that when PPE stocks are replenished they will receive supplies.

Disability service providers have told me that if there is a risk to their staff or clients, they will be forced to divert the clients to hospitals by ambulance. It is even more important during this crisis that hospitals are not undertaking the routine services that disability service providers deliver in the homes of our disabled Australians (ie. changing catheters and other hygiene measures).

Furthermore, disability support workers often deliver services in the homes of many clients each day. The potential for them to spread COVID-19 is very concerning to myself and to constituents who have contacted me over the last two weeks. Of particular concern is the fact that delivering many of these services does not enable workers to observe the 1.5m distance rule. They need advice specific to their work, as well as the PPE to undertake it safely.

Following a briefing from Mr Hoffman and Commissioner Head on Wednesday 25 March it is clear to me that neither the NDIA or the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission is taking the leadership and actions required to keep NDIS participants and the broader disability services industry safe and operational during this crisis. While service providers may not be NDIA workers, the operation of the NDIS is not viable without them. I urge both Mr Hoffman and Commissioner Head to claim ownership for the specific issues I have outlined in this letter and ensure disability services can continue to be provided as we face down COVID-19.

I urge Ministers Hunt and Robert, as well as the Chief Medical Officer to empower the NDIS to ensure that our disability services and Australians with a disability are protected from COVID-19.



Alicia Payne

Member for Canberra