Advocates say the disability community is frustrated by confusing and inconsistent information during the crisis
People with disability and their families felt forgotten amid the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic and many struggled to make ends meet, new research shows.
Every Australian Counts surveyed more than 700 National Disability Insurance Scheme participants and their families in May-June about the early impact of COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdown.
Almost a third (32 per cent) of respondents said their costs had gone through the roof, leaving them feeling stressed, anxious and stretched almost to breaking point.
“This increase in expenses for grocery delivery fees, increase in purchasing home delivery meals and loss of income is now putting us into considerable debt that I cannot afford to repay,” one respondent said.
“Soon it will become a choice of food or housing. We are both terrified for our future.”
Parents were also fearful for the wellbeing of their children, with 22 per cent reporting they had a child with disability at home who needed more support.
One respondent said: “Lockdown with no supports is literally destroying our children’s resilience and breaking families.”
People with disability were frustrated by smaller issues such as the lack of Auslan interpreters and captions in early press conferences.
But there were also more substantial problems at play, like their exclusion from extra income support.
Unlike people on JobSeeker, people on the Disability Support Pension or Carers Payment were not eligible for the coronavirus supplement.
Every Australian Counts campaign director Kirsten Deane said there was also a high level of frustration in the disability community at the slow response of government and the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).
“People understand that the pandemic is unprecedented. No one expects government and agencies to get everything right all the time,” Deane said.
“But what they really needed at such a difficult time was simple and clear communication about what was happening, more support to manage the challenges they were facing and greater flexibility in using their NDIS funding so they could get what they needed to stay safe and well.
“And what the survey results show is unfortunately this is not what many people received.”
The report made six recommendations to improve the situation for people with disability.
This includes better training for Local Area Coordinators and NDIA staff, greater flexibility with NDIS funding, and clearer, more accessible information being provided to people.
“Our message to all levels of government and to the NDIA is – this is very far from over. We need everyone to work together and urgently make changes so people can get the support they desperately need,” Deane said.
The full report can be seen here.