Sarah's Soundbite: March 2021
The first months of 2021 have seen us move through COVID Summer in Victoria, and now as we see COVID normal with greater clarity many organisations are taking the opportunity to reset. Providers are reflecting on the lessons learned, the processes that were initiated to respond to COVID-19 and how they can build on these experiences in 2021.
At the recent NDS online forum Responding to COVID-19: Lessons from 2020 the consultant and former sector CEO Graeme Kelly presented his reflections about the lessons from the pandemic. Graeme has undertaken a review for NDS's Safer and Stronger Project to identify what worked well in addressing the challenges of 2020. He listed governance and leadership, collaboration and communication, business sustainability and innovation, workforce and wellbeing, business continuity, and Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) as the key areas where good practice helped organisations respond well. Graeme will produce a set of recommendations regarding where organisations can focus their future IPC and business continuity strategies.
The recent outbreaks of COVID-19 and the five-day lockdown in Victoria highlights that providers need to maintain a focus on IPC. Following the positive response to last year’s IPC training, NDS in partnership with the Department of Fairness, Families and Housing (DFFH) is rolling out an expanded program of free, practical, hands-on IPC training in metro, regional and rural locations through March and April. I encourage providers to take advantage of this opportunity to upskill staff.
With the commencement of the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out in the last week and 10 disability residential sites across Australia receiving vaccinations in the first week many services are turning their minds to the many issues and challenges associated with the roll-out. NDS has been receiving multiple queries from members about the impact on participants and staff, possible industrial implications, responsibilities for coordination, information provision and obtaining consent. There is no doubt this is a complex and evolving space. NDS is working with governments on these issues to ensure the disability sector is a priority during the vaccination program. Over the coming months, we will continue to host webinars and issue updates to ensure providers are kept abreast of all vaccine developments impacting our sector.
The NDS Board has taken a policy position on vaccinations and is advocating at federal and state levels for COVID-19 vaccinations to be mandatory for all disability support workers who do not have a valid exemption. Every measure must be taken to safeguard people with disability and the people who provide face to face supports.
Beyond the focus on COVID-19, NDS is also looking to support providers to respond to the range of financial pressures impacting the sector, and the various NDIS and state government policy and pricing changes. We have been delighted at how the transition to online meeting formats is enabling many more people to attend. Indeed in the month of February, there were 857 total attendees at our meetings and webinars. These sessions provide opportunities to hear of developments and updates, raise and discuss issues, and share good practice with others. Do come along.