COVID response disability failure: report

The failure to consult with people with a disability as COVID-19 spread through Australia led to feelings of anxiety, stress and fear, a report has found.

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability Covid-19 report was tabled in federal parliament on Monday.

It said the Australian government was responsible for significant failings from the onset of the pandemic in late January until the establishment of the Advisory Committee for the COVID-19 Response for People with Disability on April 2.

It states no federal government agency, including the Health Department, made any significant effort to consult with people with a disability or representative organisations.

The consequence contributed to the government “neglecting to develop policies specifically addressing the needs of people with a disability and the challenges confronting them in an emergency unprecedented in modern times”.

The report noted it was striking that the NDIS Commission was not consulted prior to the release of the COVID-19 plan.

It recommended the Health Department ensure a team has specific responsibility for developing plans and programs to protect the health of people with disability during emergencies such as the pandemic.

The report stated the government cannot disclaim responsibility for ensuring compliance with obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the ground that the states provide certain essential services such as testing for COVID-19 or providing all state school children with online education.

“The Australian government has both the legislative power under domestic law and the responsibility under international law to ensure that the human rights of people with disability outlined in the CRPD are respected and enforced within Australia,” it said.

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