Chief Executive statement: Life Without Barriers’ participation in Disability Royal Commission hearing 18-21 August

20 August 2020

Life Without Barriers CEO Claire Robbs has extended her appreciation to the Disability Royal Commission for the opportunity to appear and provide input into its critically important work.

Life Without Barriers supports the work of the Disability Royal Commission and recognises the importance of public hearings providing an opportunity for Australians to listen, to learn and understand the lived experienced people with disability. Of most concern to Life Without Barriers are the accounts by people with disability or their advocates of neglect, violence, abuse and exploitation. These experiences are deeply distressing and highlight that Australia has significant steps it must take for greater equality and understanding of the experiences of people with disability to be realised. 

We hope the Royal Commission leads to a more inclusive and informed society that recognises people with disability as important members of the communities in which we all live and where the same opportunities for participation are afforded to everyone and that it leads to greater recognition of the needs of people with disability during a pandemic and a tailoring of responses as the pandemic continues. We recognise the contributory role we have as an organisation to this given we have been trusted by Australians living with disability and their families to provide disability services for over 25 years. We take this trust seriously, especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Life Without Barriers is committed to doing all we can to ensure our services are safe for clients, families, carers and staff during the pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, our staff have worked hard to ensure our clients are safe and receive continuity of care. They have worked to tailor individual responses at each stage of the pandemic. We recognise that for some people with disability, COVID-19 poses a significant and worrying health threat, and we must work to identify and mitigate these risks wherever possible to ensure clients’ safety.

We believe we have done so and continue to do so with measures including:

  • Enacting our Pandemic Response Plan in March of 2020 to coordinate pandemic management and response across our organisation.

  • Establishing a national COVID-19 Response Call Centre to provide people with disability and their families, staff and the public with an easy way to access the latest information about how Life Without Barriers is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and to have 24/7 query support.  

  • Training our staff in:

    • Infection control training which is mandatory for staff

    • Donning and doffing of PPE

    • Face mask use (in Victoria)

    • Temperature testing

  • Advanced COVID-19 infection control (where staff are providing direct care to a person with a confirmed or suspected case of coronavirus).

  • Providing access to PPE, hand sanitiser, cleaning products, masks, gloves other necessary supplies to staff and Life Without Barriers services. 

  • Prioritising continuity of care for clients to receive support, including participating in group activities online, in the home, or one-on-one in the community where practicable and safe to do so.

  • Ensuring clients can still connect with their support network, even if they were unable to visit often, via phone and video calls and other measures if technology is a barrier for people.

  • Providing staff with clear, simple and timely COVID-safe information to share with clients and families including ‘Easy English’ resources, and information in Auslan.

  • Implemented:

    • COVID-19 Complex Care Payment for staff who are supporting clients who have returned a positive test of COVID-19 in recognition of the additional measures they must take to help reduce further spread of the virus.

    • Pandemic Special Leave where needed for staff without sufficient leave to self-isolate in the case of a positive infection or suspected positive infection.

Life Without Barriers will continue our efforts and maintain our vigilance to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, to contribute to contain this very serious health threat and ensure the health and safety of our clients and staff and we commit to close examination of any learnings from the Royal Commission which we can integrate into our services.

Find out more about Life Without Barriers and our response to COVID-19 here.

Find out more information on the Disability Royal Commission hearing into the Experiences of People with Disability during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic here.

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