Helpdesk Top 5: September 2021
The NDS Helpdesk team have chosen the top five questions and responses from the past month. These questions cover NDIS Practice Standards and the NDIS price guide. Got a question on your mind? NDS members can ask the Helpdesk
Can I refuse to support unvaccinated participants?
No. The NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Commission has advised the following that COVID-19 vaccinations are not mandatory vaccinations. People have the right to decide whether they will be vaccinated or not. If a person chooses not to be vaccinated, the risk of infection can continue to be managed through the use of recommended infection control practices. If a provider or support worker refuses to continue to provide supports to you because a participant has not received the COVID-19 vaccine, it could be a breach of the NDIS Code of Conduct (NDIS Providers) and a complaint can be made to the NDIS Commission. You can read more in the NDIS Health sector consultation FAQ [pdf]
Are NDIS providers permitted to ask NDIS participants if they have received the COVID-19 vaccinations? Our workforce, despite being fully vaccinated, have shared their concerns around not knowing the vaccination status of participants when they provide face-to-face services and go into people’s homes. DSS has released information that providers can ask to sight and file notes on clients’ vaccination status, but we are unable to find similar information regarding how to proceed with NDIS participants.
It is suggested that you ask participants to voluntarily share the evidence of their COVID-19 vaccine to assist with your planning for services as restrictions ease. The key to the communication is the request cannot be mandated and a refusal to provide this will not involve any discrimination.
NDS is seeking further advice from the Commonwealth and State governments on this issue, following similar queries from providers
Are supported employees subject to the vaccine mandate?
Naturally, our Supported employees are people living with disability. Whilst we encourage vaccination and provide support however we can, we can't force people living with disability to receive vaccinations.
Supported Employees undertaking work listed on the Authorised Worker List are subject to the Victorian vaccine mandate. Some organisations are also requiring all workers who are part of their supply chain to be vaccinated, and this is impacting on some Supported Employees.
Disability service providers need to continue supporting their participants regardless of whether they choose to be vaccinated, although this raises some questions in terms of community access.
If Direct Support Staff have a mask exemption, can we then say they are ineligible to work if masks are a mandatory requirement (Victoria)?
During COVID-19 outbreaks, disability services are guided by the requirements identified by the Victorian Government Chief Health Officer as with all other settings. The CHO’s restrictions and requirements are used to develop the DFFH fact sheets for Disability Services.
The current DFFH PPE requirements specify that all disability workers need to wear a face mask appropriate to the setting they are working in.
Refer to the DFFH fact sheets for community services covered by Care Facilities, and community and non-residential disability services for official guidance.
In the case of workers with a mask exemption, we would suggest that employers consider non-client facing roles for these workers.
Our service has received funding to match volunteers with a person with a disability (NDIS and non-NDIS) in their community. There are two options for the NDIS check application process. One is to apply for a fee waiver and then manually apply for the check with that fee waiver. We have waited one month for the waiver, without result. The second is to pay for the screening and then hope to receive a refund, which is not suitable for a volunteer. Is there a more streamlined process?
NDS shares your concerns about the cumbersome NDIS check application process for volunteers.
We have been given the 'go ahead' by the Department to recommend that workers send their fee waiver form and their manual application form at the same time. This should speed up the process.
We have been hearing about delays up to 12 weeks with both the NDIS online and manual applications. We know, however, that online applications tend to be quicker, particularly with lockdown restrictions hindering manual application processing. We agree this is frustrating for volunteers, who are forced to use the manual application process if they are to access an upfront free clearance.
NDS can request prioritisation and updates on applications in some instances through our NDIS networks. If delays are impacting on the provision of supports to people with disability, contact NDS Quality and Safeguards officer Clare Hambly who will endeavour to assist: