During a Sunday address, 16 August, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews outlined a request from the State to receive Federal Government assistance to better manage COVID-19 outbreaks within residential disability accommodation and the disability sector.
There are 53 residential disability facilities in Victoria that appear to be affected or linked to the State's active cases in the disability sector.
As of Monday, 17 August, there are 87 active cases of COVID-19 in Victorian residential disability accommodation, this breaks down to 21 residents and 66 staff cases.
In National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) homes, there are 59 active cases, including 18 residents; in 'transfer' homes (State regulated/funded homes where people with disability are currently being transitioned over to the NDIS) there are 27 active cases, including 3 residents, and in State Government funded homes, there is one active case.
One Victorian residential disability facility has been completely evacuated as of Monday, afternoon, 17 August due to a COVID-19 cluster.
Premier Andrews says they are in discussions with the Federal Government about creating a response for the disability sector that is similar to that of the aged care sector.
"My view is that this would serve us well in disability services as well. I think this matter is what we are going back and forth on with the Commonwealth," says Premier Andrew.
While he says that Victoria has already created a State established rapid response centre, he thinks this response would be better if the Federal Government was involved.
"As good as that is - a State established rapid response centre - I think the better way to go is to have a Governance framework, a system, that is exactly the same as the private sector aged care."
When asked, Premier Andrews refused to say whether the Federal Government was pushing back against the calls for extra assistance and response for the disability sector.
He added that the Commonwealth haven't been involved in previous Victorian disability COVID-19 responses so far, however, he wants them to be involved.
Premier Andrews asked for further questions around the disability sector to be taken up with Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Stuart Robert.
Minister Robert appeared on the ABC Monday morning, 17 August, to discuss the Government response to protecting vulnerable people with disability and how the cohort is four times less likely than others to contract COVID-19.
It was mentioned during the interview that the Victorian Government has requested a payment for the disability workforce to help reduce movement of staff across sites.
He says that while the disability workforce has similarities with the aged care sectors workforce, he believes they are "fundamentally" different, which is why the Federal Government doesn't support a payment to the workforce or enforcement of a single site workforce for the sector.
"You've got, in Victoria, a couple hundred aged care facilities, I suppose, in Victoria there [are] 108,000 individual NDIS participants, of which only 5,300 are in a residential setting. And the average number of residents is three. So it's a very different workforce, a very different setting, and fundamentally different from aged care," explains Minister Robert.
"...Over 30 percent of those participants are self managed, so they determine their own support needs and their own requirements and how they do it. Some are in residential settings. It varies substantially, it's not as simple as saying these bunch of workers go to one facility and that's where they work and you can provide a payment so they just work there.
"It's a completely different environment. And right now if you look at infection numbers and where things sit, there are 39 NDIS participants who are currently COVID positive in Victoria, out of 108,000 participants.
"You are four times less likely to get COVID-19 now in Victoria if you're a person with a disability in the NDIS than the average population. That's how well this has been managed. That’s how well the sector is working together on this. So right now, it actually is being well managed."
Minister Robert also didn't accept it was possible to limit the disability workforce, who work across 105,000 individual homes in Victoria.
Kevin Stone, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with Disability’s (VALID) , told the The Age his fears.
“My real fear here is that there is an absence of well-supported, well-trained staff...We want to see State and Federal Governments really recognising the potential of this ticking time bomb in these places."
For more information about COVID-19 and the disability sector visit our dedicated COVID-19 information page.