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COVID-19 - Risk for People with Disability

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 22 March 2022

Tags: Disability, COVID-19


As of today, we have total of 1825 reported COVID-19 cases in the wider Tasmanian community. Over the past fortnight, since mask protections were removed, an increasing number of Tasmanians with disability have been infected with COVID-19. Do you agree that many people with disability are particularly vulnerable because they are reliant on in-home supports? They can choose to stay at home to protect themselves while community transmission is rampant and masks are removed, but they cannot protect themselves in their homes.

What steps are you as minister taking to make sure people with disability are not placed at higher risk for infection? Have you, for example, ensured they are receiving high quality advice on how to prevent infection from a virus that, on the evidence, has the potential to take their lives or disable them further as a result of long COVID-19?



Mr Speaker, I thank the member for the very important question. These are unprecedented times and I thank everyone for doing their bit to keep us safe. I also understand these times may be causing anxiety in our community, particularly for the disability sector.

Ms O'Connor - Terror, actually, for the disabled, not just anxiety.

Ms OGILVIE - I agree with you, it is a very important question.

I thank all Tasmanians with disability, carers and service providers for their assistance and understanding as we work together to ensure that we all stay safe.

The Tasmanian Government is committed, as am I, to supporting people with disability, their families, carers and support workers through the pandemic. I care deeply about this matter. We are continuing to work with the Australian Government, the National Disability Insurance Agency, the National Disability Insurance Scheme Quality and Safeguards Commission - that is important; the disability sector; and advocates, to ensure people with disability and their families continue to receive the information and support they need through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order Mr Speaker, standing order 45 - relevance. For people with disability, could the minister explain what information is being provided to them to help them keep safe?

Mr SPEAKER - Thank you for the point of order. As you know, I cannot tell the minister how to answer a question. It appears to me that she is answering along the line of the question that you put. I cannot put words into the minister's mouth.

Ms OGILVIE - Thank you. I have some more, which will help answer the question.

We are committed to ensuring that people with disability, particularly children at this stage of the rollout, their carers and support workers, are prioritised to receive the COVID 19 vaccine which is our best protection against COVID-19. It is still a requirement that people in Tasmania who are employed or engaged to provide high intensity supports for NDIS participants be fully vaccinated.

Ms O'Connor - That is not the only protection.

Mr SPEAKER - Order, Leader of the Greens.

Ms OGILVIE - That goes to what you are asking.

The National Disability Insurance Agency has put in place a suite of measures to help participants who may have been impacted by COVID-19 to ensure they continue to receive the essential disability supports they need. Participants can also contact the NDIA directly. The health, safety and wellbeing of Tasmanians is our number one priority. It is an important topic. Some people are clearly more vulnerable to serious impacts from COVID-19 and we have prioritised those groups for vaccination, including those with disability.

Our Tasmanian vaccination team has been working with disability peak bodies offering tailored information sessions to people with a disability, their families and carers. Additional support and quiet day clinics have been offered and additional support is available at clinics, if needed. A Disability Emergency Operation Centre, which is fantastic, continues to support providers and people living with disability to respond to COVID-19 outbreaks.

I thank the member for the question.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Mr Speaker. We cannot let the minister sit down. Standing order 45: relevance. People with disability want to know where is the information on preventing infection?

Mr SPEAKER - Before you start, minister, standing order 45 has been raised in this Chamber a number of times. Allowing considerable latitude in the content of the question has become an acceptable practice of the House and, therefore, it informs the practice of the House in relation to standing order 45 where the quid pro quo is when proportionate latitude is also given to the answer.

I also note the practice of the House of Representatives where, provided a minister is addressing the policy topic which is the subject of the question, the answer is deemed relevant. I ask the minister to stay relevant and, of course, continue or conclude your answer, please.

Ms OGILVIE - Thank you, Mr Speaker. I will wrap it up because I have taken some time to answer in detail.

A Public Health direction was signed on 11 March requiring that a person employed or engaged in providing high intensity support to an NDIS participant must have received a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 1 April, and if not yet eligible, have received the booster within four weeks of becoming eligible.

The disability sector is very close to my heart. I care about the people who participate in it, people living with disability, their carers and particularly families. The supports are there, they are in place, there is information they can seek.

I hope that is a robust answer, but if there are individuals who are concerned or who want more, my door is open and I am always happy to respond.