Thursday, 14 May 2020
Questions without Notice
COVID-19: People with Disability
My question is to the Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the Minister for Government Services. Will the minister outline to the House the measurers the Morrison government has implemented to support people with a disability throughout the COVID-19 pandemic?
I thank the member for Braddon for his question and all his hard work supporting almost 2,000 participants in his electorate. The Morrison government moved quickly when the crisis came upon us. In early March, the government convened the first of a number of emergency Disability Reform Council, DRC, meetings, where all state and territory ministers collectively got together to work through our national response. Out of that first meeting, on 18 March, $1.1 billion worth of measures was agreed by all state and territory ministers and the Commonwealth. Two key components of that initial stage included: one allowing providers to bill forward one month's worth of their invoicing to ensure they had the necessary cash flow, and also adding a 10 per cent loading onto core support activities so that participants would have the knowledge that any support being provided to them was cognisant of and included anything that was required to assist with the COVID-19 spread. This built on the $320 billion worth of assistance that all arms of government have provided in response to this extraordinary circumstance. Further DRC meetings across April and May announced a range of measures, including extending plans up to 24 months, greater flexibility for participants across their plans, ensuring continuity of support, and increased capacity of NDIA staff to focus on urgent and required changes. We moved to phone planning. We are reaching out to 62,000 vulnerable participants to ensure they're getting the services they need. Priority access has been arranged through the major supermarkets for delivery of groceries. We made changes to supported independent living to deal with any potential vacancies; temporarily increased the flexibility for participants to purchase low-cost assistive technology items, including smart devices so that they could access innovative applications from home; and, of course, allocated over half a million PPE masks to the sector.
It is incredibly pleasing to see the very low level of notification for participants and support workers relating to COVID-19 infections. We've also seen weekly provider payments remain steady, demonstrating that the NDIS market has responded well to the pandemic. The quarterly report to the end of March 2020, which was released this week, has also shown that 27½ thousand new participants have joined the NDIS this quarter, with nearly 365,000 people now being supported across Australia. Most pleasingly, despite COVID-19, we've seen significant improvements across all areas of timely support through the scheme. I thank everyone in the House and all members who have worked steadily in their areas to care for people with disability.