The ACT government has promised people with a disability will have easier access to personal protective equipment, after months of uncertainty led some people to cancel vital services.
In the long-awaited coronavirus disability strategy released by Disability Minister Suzanne Orr on Monday, the government laid out a series of high-level objectives to support people with a disability during the coronavirus crisis.
"People will have access to appropriate PPE and hygiene products, food, medications and consumables because there will be targeted messaging and supports to ensure that they do," the strategy says.
"People with disability will have adequate personal supports, because there will be engagement with providers to ensure continuity of essential services, guidelines for safe personal engagement, training for support workers on how to stay safe and standby capacity developed for the sector."
Advocates have been pressuring government for two months to provide clearer pathways to personal protective equipment.
ACT Council of Social Services Policy Manager Craig Wallace said at one stage, nearly everyone in his contact network had cancelled services because workers did not have access to personal protective equipment.
"I'm one of those people who had cancelled my cleaning services because workers couldn't get access to PPE," Mr Wallace said.
After scratching together his own PPE supply, Mr Wallace was able to get a cleaner to come into his home for the first time in two months on Monday.
"For two months I've had no cleaner or domiciliary support," Mr Wallace said.
While Mr Wallace welcomed the strategy, he wanted more detail about how PPE would be distributed.
The ACT government moved a fortnight ago to allow disability support providers and self-managing participants to apply for access to the territory's PPE stockpile.
But Carers ACT chief executive Lisa Kelly said it was still unclear whether people with disabilities and their carers could apply for personal protective equipment in their own right.
The online form asked people to fill out what agency they were attached to, leading people to believe they were not eligible for PPE from the stockpile (a government spokesman said the agency field was not a required field and those struggling to source PPE could still procure it through government).
Ms Kelly said while she didn't object to principles laid out in the strategy, she was concerned about the lack of specific actions listed.
She said people with disabilities could not isolate the way many others in the community could, especially if they needed assistance to get out of bed or to shower.
"They can have upwards of 10 support workers in their house per week and they don't have the option of physical distancing," Ms Kelly said.
Ms Kelly said there had been some confusion about what standard of personal protective equipment support workers were required to wear for different tasks, leading some clients to cancel services out of an abundance of caution.
The cancellations had placed more pressure on carers, who were often juggling work and parenting responsibilities too.
"It's been pretty challenging," Ms Kelly said.
Ms Orr said the strategy would evolve as needs changed.
"As we continue to respond to the threat of COVID-19 I want people living with disability and their supporters to know their concerns are heard, that is what this strategy is about and the ACT government will continue to review the strategy as the pandemic and its implications unfold," Ms Orr said.