NDIS participants are now able to use their funding to buy Rapid Antigen Tests to protect themselves against the spread of COVID-19.
But the decision has angered disability advocates, who say NDIS participants will now have to choose between keeping themselves safe, or funding much needed supports and therapies.
Under NDIS rule changes, RATs can be purchased using Core funding from plans, and can be used by participants to test themselves, support workers and carers.
But People with Disability Australia says while this would limit out of pocket expenses for NDIS participants, it comes at the hefty cost of sacrificing funding allocated for therapies and supports.
“RATs should be free for all people with disability,” says PWDA president, Samantha Connor.
“PWDA is concerned that the government is not providing additional funding for NDIS participants to pay for RATs, is requiring NDIS participants to source their own RATs and to use their existing core funding.
“This funding is already allocated to pay for reasonable and necessary disability supports, including equipment and therapy.
“We’re also concerned that NDIS participants are being required to use their NDIS funding to pay for RATs for their support workers. The Federal Government should be providing rapid antigen testing and PPE to disability support workers directly rather than shifting the responsibility and cost to NDIS participants.”
Currently, holders of an eligible Commonwealth concession card can access up to 10 RATs over a three-month period (maximum of five in a one-month period) through community pharmacies. However major shortages of RATs have meant finding the tests has been near-impossible for most people.
Meanwhile, Australia’s peak disability representative organisations have written to National Cabinet to detail the “unacceptable risks to the lives and health of people with disability caused by the response of Australia’s federal, state and territory governments to the Omicron and Delta variants of COVID-19”.
People with Disability Australia, Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, Disability Advocacy Network Australia, Inclusion Australia, Women with Disabilities Australia, National Ethnic Disability Alliance, First Peoples Disability Network, and Children and Young People with Disability Australia have called on National Cabinet to provide free and accessible access to personal protective equipment (PPE), especially N95 or P2 face masks, oximeters, as well as rapid antigen tests (RATs) on an ongoing basis for people with disability as well as their support workers and carers.
The eight organisations also want priority access and processing of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for people with disability as well as their support workers and carers, and rejected National Cabinet’s decision to permit disability support workers to isolate for much shorter periods than required of Australia’s general population if those workers are close contacts of people who have been COVID-positive, saying it would inevitably put more people with disability into contact with active cases.
“As representatives of some of our most clinically vulnerable people, it is clear to us that governments’ let-it-rip approach is an ableist approach that does not value the lives of people with disability,” the statement says.