While it has been encouraging to see Australians “work together in isolation” and appreciate the need to support each other, it’s important to remember those in our community who are more vulnerable than others. As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, people with a disability are suffering more than most.
Community Disability Alliance Hunter (CDAH) represents those most at risk and we understand COVID-19’s potential huge impact on people with compromised immune systems, and people with respiratory difficulties. There are also flow-on effects from the pandemic that puts other people with disability at risk.
The most damaging is a reduction in the supports that many people with disability require just to live from day to day. This includes showering, dressing and help with being fed. These on-going and necessary needs are currently in jeopardy as a result of lack of available support.
People with a disability already experience isolation, and the pandemic has only increased this. Group homes have been locked down with only immediate family members allowed to enter. Programs that existed for socialising are no longer running due to fear of infection or lack of available staff.
With many no longer having the ability or opportunity to meet with friends and be involved with their community the risk of depression is growing daily.
While people throughout the Hunter and the nation are physically distancing and self-isolating as a result of COVID-19, this is not possible for thousands of people with disability. Many in the disability community cannot live safely in their homes without direct, practical support from other people.
COVID-19 is creating instability in the workforce of disability support workers. We need to ensure that people with disability get the essential supports they need at home, and we need to co-ordinate this locally. Social distancing is not an option. It actually places our community at a very real risk.
Members looking for help have contacted CDAH after their support workers cancelled crucial shifts. These shifts included assistance to get in and out of bed, go to the bathroom, shower and dress, eat meals and take medications.
In response, CDAH has set up the Hunter Supports Hub, a local, grassroots co-ordination service. As the virus spreads, the hub will aim to quickly connect people who can provide support with the people who need it most.
Mitchell Jones, co-founder of local disability support provider Includa, says it has staff with a diverse range of skills on stand-by and is committed to cutting through the red tape to get supports to people who need them. Jordan O’Reilly, co-founder and chief executive of on-line disability support platform Hireup, says it is doing whatever it takes to ensure no one is left behind as the virus spreads.
CDAH is receiving emails and messages from people with disability, support workers and service providers who recognise the importance of working together as part of a co-ordinated, local approach.
The Hunter community is known for its goodwill, generosity and great problem solving so we know we can work together to support people who need it during this pandemic.
CDAH encourages people with disability in need of essential supports to visit the website www.cdah.org.au/hunter-supports-hub. Service providers and support workers keen to collaborate are also encouraged to get in contact with CDAH via the website.
We all have a role to play. We can work together to support people who need it during this period. The Hunter is a resourceful and adaptive community and it’s important to reach out to those you know to show them they are not alone and are valued.
CDAH has also developed an outreach service for people with disability in the Hunter using a pay-it-forward system. People with disability are reaching out to other people with disability in their networks and helping everybody stay connected.
If you wish to help, please go to our Connection Tree http://www.cdah.org.au/connection-tree.