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AFDO eNews

Issue #13
September 2020

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Ross JoyceFrom our CEO

Ross Joyce

Welcome to the latest edition of AFDO eNews.   

This year has seen many challenges for people with disability and their families as everyone adjusts to living through a global pandemic.  However, the impact COVID-19 has had on people with disability is a cause for real concern.  Once again we've seen people with disability disadvantaged further as we saw Disability Support Pension recipients miss out on receiving the CoronaVirus Supplement that JobSeeker recipients received. This is despite people with disability having higher living costs in general, and with the pandemic we have seen the costs of groceries, medications, transport and personal protective equipment (PPE) rise sharply. 

Recently, the Disability Royal Commission held a public hearing on the experiences of people with disability during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  AFDO, along with many others in the disability community submitted a written Statement and also gave evidence at the hearing about how people with disability have been impacted by the pandemic. 

Our Statement to the Disability Royal Commission included sixteen recommendations, including to immediately increase the Disability Support Pension (DSP) and Carer Payment the same as the increase in the JobSeeker Payment to acknowledge the increased cost of living and loss of employment or opportunities for DSP recipients.  You can read AFDO's full Statement and the supporting evidence that we presented to the Disability Royal Commission on the AFDO website.

Below is an overview of some of our work, as well as other important news for the disability sector.  I hope you enjoy this edition of AFDO eNews.  

COVID-19 and personal protective equipment (PPE)

In Victoria, all disability support workers must now wear a face mask AND protection for the eyes - such as safety glasses or a face shield.  This rule applies to everyone - including people who are providing non-contact support.

We understand that using PPE is new for a lot of people.  There is online training available on how to put PPE on, and how  to take it off safely.  The Victorian Government provides online training which is FREE, and anyone can do it - including people with disability, family members and support workers.  Although this training is aimed at the current situation in Victoria, anyone in Australia can use this training.  There are two units - each unit takes about 20 minutes to complete.  You can find a short video about the training on YouTube, and you can find the full training on the Eve Learning Ex website.  You will need to create an account in order to do the training, but the training is free.

You can also find out about the new rules for support workers in Victoria on the Department of Health and Human Services website.  

People with disability have the right to feel safe

Trauma specialists Blue Knot Foundation have been funded by the Australian Government to manage the National Counselling and Referral Service.

The National Counselling and Referral Service is now offering support to people with disability, family members, carers, advocates, and workers who have experienced or witnessed abuse, neglect, violence, or exploitation during these difficult times.   Please note that you do not have to be involved with the Disability Royal Commission to receive support from the National Counselling and Referral Service.

You can call the National Counselling and Referral Service on 1800 421 468. 
TTY users can contact the National Relay Service on 133 677, then ask for 1800 421 468.  If you need support in another language, you can use the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS)  for free by:

  • Calling the National Counselling and Referral Service on 1800 421 468 and asking for an interpreter, OR
  • Calling TIS on 131 450 and asking to be connected to National Counselling and Referral Service on 1800 421 468

The National Counselling and Referral Service operates from: 

  • 9am-6pm AEST/AEDT Mon-Fri and 
  • 9am-5pm AEST/AEDT Sat, Sun and public holidays.
The Blue Knot Foundation have just released their latest newsletter which you can read on the Blue Knot website

AFDO also has a Royal Commission Hub on our website which includes more information about the Disability Royal Commission and the National Counselling and Referral Service.

Don't forget, that If you are currently experiencing any form of violence or abuse, or you are concerned for your safety or someone else’s safety, call 000 immediately.

AFDO welcomes new members

We would like to welcome Polio Australia as a Full member of AFDO. We are very proud to be the organisation that has brought together cross-disability organisations which represent the interests of people with all kinds of disability, and disability-specific peak organisations, such as Polio Australia, Blind Citizens Australia, Brain Injury Australia, Down Syndrome Australia and others.

It's essential that government listens to Australians with disability and their representative organisations, and we understand that cross-disability organisations are only successful when they have access to the expertise of disability-specific organisations.  We also understand that it is imperative that neither the voice of cross-disability groups or disability-specific groups is silenced in favour of the other.

We are also pleased to welcome three new Associate members that have joined AFDO recently - Accessible Inclusion Matters (AIM), Leadership Plus, and the National Organisation for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (NOFASD)

We now have twenty six organisations as members of AFDO - nineteen Full members and seven Associate members.  You can learn more about all our members on the AFDO website.  If your group is interested in becoming a member of AFDO, you can find out more information about how to join AFDO here.

Image of all AFDO member logos as one image.

The Future of Social Security for people with disability in Australia

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have continued our work on the Disability Support Pension (DSP).  Most recently we have partnered with Western Sydney University to hold online workshops with our members, Social Security Rights Victoria, ACOSS and many others to discuss the following issues:

  • DSP Application and Appeals Process
  • How do we strengthen the rights of Social Security recipients?
  • The Future of Social Security and Inequality in a Post COVID World
We also continue to call for an urgent review into the DSP as we are concerned that changes to the DSP and the wider social security system over the past two decades has led to many people with disability being unable to access social security payments, most importantly the DSP.

You can read more about our campaign for an urgent review into the DSP here, which includes links to research reports on the DSP and NewStart (now called JobSeeker), as well as personal stories by people with disabilities. 

There is also the following resources available to help you if you are thinking of applying for the Disability Support Pension. 
  • DSP & Me: is for people with disabilities who think they may be eligible for the DSP (includes Plain English and Easy English versions) - produced by the Disability Resources Centre.. 
  • DSP Help: to help people understand the DSP and make better applications and appeals - produced by Social Security Rights Victoria.

National Disability Strategy beyond 2020

The National Disability Strategy 2010-2020 (the current Strategy) is a plan to make the lives of people with disability better.  The Strategy talks about what can be done to make Australia more inclusive and accessible. The Strategy is also the main way Australia implements the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The current Strategy will end this year, and the Department of Social Services is now holding the second stage of consultations on the new Strategy.  You can read the National Disability Strategy position paper which is available in Easy Read, Auslan, and a number of other languages.  And you can fill in the online guided questionnaire to have your say on what should be included in the new Strategy.  The online guided questionnaire is also available in Easy Read.

If you prefer, you can provide a written submission to the Department of Social Services instead of completing the online guided questionnaire.  More information on how to make a submission is available on the Department of Social Services website.  The closing date for submissions is 30th September 2020

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