Covid double whammy for family

PEOPLE with disabilities are struggling with reduced services and increased costs during the Covid-19 pandemic, say families and advocates. 

Coogee residents Pete and Linda Brookes’ son Luke, 19, has epilepsy, mild cerebral palsy, an intellectual disability, non-verbal dyspraxia and only one functioning kidney, but they say many of the services he needs have been suspended due to social distancing rules.

“Therapy is via zoom and support worker hours have been reduced by two-thirds,” Ms Brookes told the Herald.

“We have no access to family support; friends are unable to assist either.”

Ms Brookes says Luke has struggled to understand the situation because of his intellectual disability and has been visibly distressed at not being able to see his grandparents as regularly as he normally would. 

Amy Jurilj is the family’s disability support worker. In better times she helps clients get out into the community to enjoy social interactions and access speech therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy.

“We are now limited to activities at home,” she said. 

“Seeing my client distressed and upset is really difficult; I often cry on my way home from work”.

High anxiety

A People with Disability Western Australia (PWDWA) spokesperson said there were extremely high levels of anxiety in the community, with many choosing to self-isolate before restrictions were implemented.

“Many people have had therapy services drop off completely, with the alternatives sometimes not being able to be put in place or taking time to move to Telehealth.

highlighted issues of poverty and access to digital technology and the internet as well as ethical dilemmas in health.”

The Morrison government released its $154m Covid-19 plan for people with disabilities on April 9, which included extra loading on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, advanced payments for service providers and a hotline.

But it was immediately criticised by advocates as not going far enough, having ignored key concerns such as the supply of protective equipment for workers and priority testing.

PWDWA said it felt like people with disabilities were forgotten at first or lumped in with aged care, although some improvements like priority shopping had been welcomed.

“The focus of the government’s response has predominately been on making sure there were workers in services, but this dismissed the many people who work and do not get NDIS packages” the spokesperson told the Herald.

“It has taken longer for recognition of our rights in health and getting a clear idea of protocols in the health system.

“The lack of recognition of increased costs for those on [the Disability Support Pension] is very disappointing”.


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