Wednesday, 16 June 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Senator Reynolds. At the recent round of Senate estimates, less than two weeks ago, we heard that out of the 22,285 people living with disability only 335 had had both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Why were only 1.6 per cent of people living in a residential disability setting fully vaccinated, despite being in priority 1a for the vaccine rollout?
I thank the senator for the question. The issue of vaccinations for people with disability, particularly those on the NDIS, their carers and also their support workers has been of great importance to me and a great focus in my first couple of months in this job. We have actually had a significant increase over the last few weeks in the new measures that we have been implementing. We have now got many more hubs, particularly based at providers, and I very much thank the SIL providers in particular for opening up their facilities around the nation and providing vaccinations both for participants and their carers, and also for workers.
Since the last lot of figures that I published, we now have just under 50,000 NDIS participants who have had at least one dose of the vaccine, which is an increase of 18,700 since 25 May. This includes 9,500 people with disability living in residential aged care, or eligible people who are living in disability residential care, under phase 1a of the scheme; that is an increase of over 3,300 since 25 May. We are making significant inroads, and it's due to a fantastic effort between the Department of Health and our department, and now the providers. As I said, I'm very grateful for their assistance in speeding up the rollout.
I thank the minister. Rosemary Symon, whose daughter lives in a group home in Albury, said on ABC Radio in Melbourne recently:
Nobody has been able to give me any information for months, and then not to be able to get through on the 1800 number … the lack of information has been just appalling.
… … …
It's not as if the federal government hasn't had time to plan for this.
She goes on to describe the Morrison government's vaccine rollout as 'non-existent'. Is she right?
Thank you very much for that question. I would advise all Australians living with disability, their carers, their family members and their workers that there are many avenues now for them to receive vaccinations. The main four channels that everybody, including the family that you have just mentioned—there are now more than 4,600 primary care sites that they can go to. There are the state and territory operated clinics, of which there are now more than 600 across the nation. There are the Commonwealth inreach and hubs, which are being provided through NDIS providers, who are making their facilities available. They in particular have the transportation to assist to bring people in and meet their special requirements, according to their disability. GPs are now doing inreach, and some states pharmacies are now also doing inreach. There are now many channels, and that information is available on the Department of Health's website and also via the NDIA website.
My hope is: as quickly as possible. But this vaccination is voluntary. Ultimately, we have now made many more channels available for people with disability, their carers and their support workers to get vaccinated, either within their home or within other facilities they are living in—or they can go to or be transported to many facilities. We have the channels available. We have the means of providing vaccination. But, ultimately, under this scheme, we cannot force anybody to be vaccinated.