Labor calls for rapid antigen tests to be made available for disability workers
The Federal Government must provide disability service providers with access to rapid antigen testing for disability support workers, to reduce the chance of COVID infection in people with disabilities, their families and support workers, says Labor’s Bill Shorten and Macquarie MP Susan Templeman today.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) does not currently enable disability service providers to maintain stocks of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and makes no provision for the use of rapid antigen testing either via direct payments to providers or individual support plans, say the MPs.
Rapid antigen testing is being used successfully overseas to help prevent and
detect infection in similar settings, and funding has been provided by the Department of Health for use in some aged-care facilities in Sydney.
Self-testing rapid antigen kits are allowed to be used in Australia from November 1.
Service providers like DARE Disability Support in the Blue Mountains are already using rapid testing for staff and residents, and their CEO Andrew Daly says it can be an effective tool to help identify and prevent the spread of COVID.
“It is DARE’s belief that rapid antigen testing will enable disability service providers to identify chains of emerging transmission early and prevent infection in people with disabilities, their families and support workers,” Mr Daly says.
One of the issues is, disability services do not receive any additional funding to equip themselves and carry out this testing.
Macquarie MP Susan Templeman with Shadow Minister for NDIS, Bill Shorten (archive picture)
“Rapid antigen testing is critical for the disability sector to protect both people with disabilities and the workforce,” said Bill Shorten, who is the Shadow Minister for NDIS and Government Services.
“The Morrison Government neglected people with disability right at the outset of the pandemic and rapid testing will protect those who have not yet been able to access vaccinations,” said the MP.
And Ms Templeman - who recently held a Zoom conference which included antigen experts from Mulgrave-based Innovation Scientific, said, “disability support workers can be a highly mobile workforce, and funding rapid antigen self-testing would help with early identification of infection and therefore reduce the risk of transmission and keep staff and services available.
“It simply makes sense for the Government to do whatever it can so that some of the most vulnerable members of our society are not left behind as we navigate our way through the new COVID environment.”
Mr Daly added, “clearly, the impact of not funding rapid antigen testing in the disability sector will be higher levels of infections and transmissions in the disability and broader community, and the very real risk that disability providers will not be able to continue to provide services and people with disability will suffer.”
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