Sarah's Soundbite: May 2021
The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination is still top of our minds, particularly in the disability sector where the promises of early vaccinations have not materialised. The shortage of the Pfizer vaccine and issues with the AstraZeneca vaccine has further slowed the process.
From early May, the Federal Government has invited anyone over 50 to receive their vaccination and the Victorian Government has ramped up its high volume vaccination centres. At last count, there were 23 taking walk-ins and appointments. Disability providers could consider encouraging staff to use one of the centres and support them by assisting with bookings. By coordinating bookings providers can stagger vaccinations and minimise the risk of staff simultaneously needing time off work if they have a reaction.
We understand that preparations are still underway for vaccines to be delivered in residential and other group settings for people with disability and will provide updates once further information is available. We recommend the sector use this time waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations to get flu vaccinations.
Of concern is the potential level of vaccine hesitancy amongst our workforce. A recent survey from the Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health, whereby 360 disability support workers responded, found only 50 per cent of workers would get the vaccine as soon as possible. Others indicated they would wait, only getting vaccinated if required or who had not made up their minds, while 17 per cent said they would not get it at all. Other surveys undertaken by individual providers indicate lesser levels of hesitancy.
Significant work is needed to build trust in the vaccine in the sector. NDS has created a Vaccines FAQs webpage, and we recommend providers use it as a resource for answers and useful information. NDS is also working closely with members, other stakeholders and governments to produce information and practical resources to help address vaccine hesitancy in the disability workforce.
Anyone who saw the NZ COVID-19 ads in 2020 or has flown Air New Zealand and laughed along with their safety videos already knows how well New Zealanders use comedy to get their message across. Their latest offering around COVID-19 vaccinations and vaccine hesitancy is no exception, and they are sure to make you smile.
NDIS Worker Screening Checks
Another top concern for many Victorian providers relates to the new NDIS Check process, introduced on 1 February 2020. NDS has received multiple reports of difficulties with the Services Victoria portal, and delays in manual processing. This is resulting in major recruitment bottlenecks across the state, the loss of potential workers and volunteers to our sector, and widespread frustration and distress. In response to NDS advocacy, we are now meeting weekly with senior government representatives to work through the issues and improve the system. Some improvements have been made to date, but we are not yet seeing the impact of these on the ground.
The NDIS Checks are exacerbating widespread workforce challenges. We continue to hear reports of providers struggling to recruit and retain sufficient skilled workers. There are also reports of staff and clients continuing to struggle with issues related to stress and trauma in this COVID-19 environment.
NDS events and workshops
NDS is organising a series of workshops on Fostering wellbeing in the Disability Sector in 2021, to explore the nature and the origins of the challenges to mental health, along with practical strategies to address these challenges. We will be hearing from providers directly regarding their experiences, and workshop participants will have the opportunity to share with, and learn from, others in the sector.
We will also explore the challenge of supervision support at an online forum on 26 May. Supervision quality is linked to retention, wellbeing, work performance and even attraction. This forum is also an opportunity for providers to share experiences and come away with ideas to foster effective supervision.
Another focus for our sector at present is quality and safeguarding, particularly as we follow the progress of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. I encourage providers to attend our national Quality and Safeguarding virtual conference on 12 May, followed by masterclasses on 13 May, and workshops on 18 and 20 May.
It’s a busy time with these issues, and others arising from the NDIS focus on Scheme sustainability and system reform, and various Victorian government initiatives. I encourage you to come along to some of our communities of practice to hear updates, share your experiences, and work with others as we develop strategies to help services navigate the challenges and thrive in this dynamic environment.