Sarah's Soundbite: June 2021
The arrival of winter in Victoria has unfortunately been marked by an outbreak of the highly infectious Indian variant of COVID-19, and a circuit breaker lockdown across the state. The rapid spread of Coronavirus through the Victorian community has shown us not only that the virus can still strike us, but these new variants can strike us faster and harder.
Melbourne will enter its second week of lockdown on Friday, while restrictions in regional Victoria will be eased. If there is a silver lining, the outbreak has driven concerted efforts from the Victorian Government, and this week the Commonwealth, to escalate the vaccination program in the disability sector. Minister Reynolds has announced financial support to assist NDIS participants and workers access vaccines, while the State Government is giving priority walk-in access to people with disability and workers at 10 vaccination hubs. Providers should keep an eye out for the NDS Victorian news updates and the Vaccine FAQs which are bringing the latest key changes to providers as they are announced.
Vaccine hesitancy among disability workers presents real concerns around their capacity to protect and support people with disability during an outbreak as well as protect the workforce. NDS has partnered with Victoria’s Department of Health to deliver free online training on Thursday, 10 June to assist providers to build confidence in COVID-19 vaccines and address vaccine hesitancy in the workforce.
The Department of Health has arranged for a vaccination webinar, specifically for disability sector unions and workers, to be presented by Professor Ben Cowie on Thursday, 24 June. Register via Eventbrite. We are also watching with interest the current public discussion about the possibility of making vaccines mandatory for aged care workers - such a move could then have implications for our sector.
NDS's Safer and Stronger project funded by DFFH continues to support the Victorian disability sector through the pandemic. NDS is developing useful resources, relevant training and networking, as well as news updates so that providers can be confident they have the tools to navigate the challenges that lie ahead.
Have you seen the Victorian COVID-19 Response Toolkit?
There you’ll find easy-to-follow emergency management documents developed specifically for the disability sector by DFFH, Scope Australia, NDIS and NDS. First 24 hours: Steps to take in response to a positive COVID-19 diagnosis shared by SCOPE and the DFFH Immediate Action Steps plan, can be adapted by providers to suit their needs. The Snap Lockdown Checklist, developed by NDS, is a handy tool to assist preparations in the event of a sudden lockdown.
While COVID-19 continues to dominate our focus, we are also monitoring other developments impacting disability services. NDS continues to hear from members about the lengthy recruitment delays being created by the Victorian NDIS Checks. We are meeting the government regularly, and understand that the system is improving. However, we are keen to hear how delays are impacting services for people with disability. NDS is happy to escalate urgent applications for NDIS Checks.
Another initiative receiving attention is the new voluntary worker registration scheme, commencing 1 July. See the webinar explaining the new scheme recording on the Victorian Disability Worker Commission website, if you missed it.
We have also been busy supporting organisations to navigate the complex SDA and SIL regulatory space, with recent negotiations around the Collaborative Agreement between the state government and SIL providers, and discussions about the lease options for SDA residents in Victoria.
A forum on supervision within the disability sector organised by NDS attracted more than 100 attendees, where the complexities and challenges were met with solutions and innovation. In the current challenging environment where providers strive to provide quality supervision, it was great to hear the rich information and array of strategies being applied.
Anna Pannuzzo, WorkPlace Plus spoke about the six elements for supervision success, highlighting the WorkSafe Safe Support Tool as a useful resource, while Dianne Hardy from NDS spoke about the challenging context for disability supervision and provided possible solutions and noted a valuable online training resource for developing Frontline Practice Leaders.
Presentations from three providers, each with different perspectives and strategies, sparked engaging discussions. Carol Peterson from Cerebral Palsy Support Network offered practical suggestions that could be replicated; Mark Hulbert, Yooralla, spoke on technology and supervision in a remote context and Dave Relf, Aruma, focused on quality and safeguarding.