Morrison Government acts on Disability Royal Commission COVID-19 Report

The Morrison Government has acted quickly to address many of the issues raised in the Disability Royal Commission Public Hearing Report about experiences of people with disability during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Improvements to how we consult with people with disability, improvements to data, governance arrangements and the development of further guidance for providers of disability accommodation services are detailed in the government's response to the report tabled in Parliament today.

The Government supports, or supports in principle, 21 of the recommendations and notes one.

Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt said the Morrison Government welcomed the opportunity to respond to the report.

"Australia acted swiftly in responding to protecting both the overall population and in particular our most vulnerable Australians," Minister Hunt said.

"To that end, we recognise it is a profoundly important human outcome that we have been able to keep Australians with disability overwhelmingly safe with significantly lower positive case numbers and lives lost in the disability community, than in the broader Australian population, which itself has been one of the strongest outcomes in the world.

"We continue to work closely with stakeholders representing the interests of people with disability, states, territories and across Commonwealth agencies to improve our response to COVID-19 for people with disability."

Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston said the Government had carefully considered the report and some milestones had already been achieved in collaboration with all levels of government, as well as the health and disability sectors.

"We acknowledge the importance of involving people with disability and their representative organisations in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and other emergencies and are committed to even closer engagement in the future, as the need arises," Minister Ruston said.

"We are developing a new National Disability Strategy to begin in 2021 to focus the efforts of all levels of government on improving outcomes for people with disability.

"As a key first step, disability ministers nationally have agreed to establish an NDS Advisory Council to advise governments on the new Strategy, to be designed in collaboration with people with disability and the disability community.

"We have also committed funding to develop Good Practice Guidelines for engaging with people with disability to support the participation of people with disability in future consultation."

Minister Ruston said the Government recognised the additional pressure people with disability and their families experienced during the pandemic.

"We provided additional disability employment support, established the COVID-19 Disability Information Helpline and introduced measures to meet the immediate needs of NDIS participants," Minister Ruston said.

"We also prioritised access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and provided mainstream supports such as the JobKeeper program and paid pandemic leave to eligible people and businesses in the disability sector."

Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme Linda Reynolds said the Morrison Government would be continuing to strengthen its response to COVID-19 for people with disability in the NDIS.

"New guidelines are well advanced to prevent, control and manage COVID-19 in disability accommodation settings to address the differences between residential aged care settings," Minister Reynolds said.

"A new national COVID-19 registry is being created to improve the ability to identify the number of people with a disability, including those in residential disability care facilities, testing positive to COVID-19.

"To ensure ongoing quality and safety, NDIS Quality Indicators will be adjusted to provide additional guidance to providers on what they should have in place to prepare, prevent, manage and respond to future emergencies and disasters."

Minister Reynolds added that a scheduled review of the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Framework will commence in 2021-22 to determine if any further changes are needed.

Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt thanked the Disability Royal Commission for its important work and all those who provided written submissions and evidence.

"We are committed to ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of people with disability, along with all Australians, during and beyond the pandemic.

"The roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine is prioritising people with disability and we are working closely with the Department of Social Services and the NDIA on the delivery of the vaccination program," Minister Hunt said.

You can read the Government's response to the Disability Royal Commission Public Hearing Report.