Backup workforces have been set up to cover mass staff shortages in Canberra's disability sector, caused by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
The Commonwealth has also agreed to allow territory-based NDIS providers access to a special surge workforce, in response to a request from the Barr government.
But providers, unions and the ACT government are still pushing for additional support, including financial assistance, amid fears the worst is yet to come.
The disability workforce has been rocked by major disruptions through the capital's largest outbreak, with support staff among the thousands of Canberrans forced into isolation over the past four weeks.
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith on Friday revealed a total of 44 cases were now linked to the sector, including 34 support workers and allied health professionals and 10 people with a disability.
Able Australia ACT manager Jessi Claudianos said her team of more than 40 staff had been struck by the disruptions which were reverberating across the sector.
She said in addition to the workforce shortages, there was a constant fear of staff becoming exposed to COVID-19, and then inadvertently spreading it to the vulnerable clients they worked with.
"There's a lot of anxiety within disability support workers," she said.
"This is their chosen profession, and they are often quite unrewarded by the rest of the community, they are unseen heroes who are working really hard to protect some of the most vulnerable people.
"But there is always a risk that they will be exposed."
Three quarters of the ACT's NDIS-screened workers have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with 55 per cent fully vaccinated.
Peak body National Disability Services has established a surge workforce register, which is being used to redeploy stood-down workers to cover shifts for staff who are forced to isolate.
NDS ACT manager Kerrie Langford said providers had at times had up to 50 per cent of their staff in forced isolation.
While redeployed workers were able to plug gaps when enough notice was given, Ms Langford said it was difficult to respond to crisis situations.
"If there is a crisis where you know there's something that's extraordinarily complex or someone has very complex needs and requires support, to try and find that support can be very, very problematic," she said.
"So while we can pick up on that more medium to long-term requirement, that crisis is a concern."
The Australian Services Union, which represents disability workers, has also created its own surge workforce.
"We've asked our 16,000 members across NSW and the ACT whether ... they would like to put up their hand up to do extra shifts and help out local services in their community," the union's assistant secretary, Angus McFarland, said.
The Canberra Times last week reported ACT Minister for Disability Emma Davidson had written to her federal counterpart Linda Reynolds to request financial and workforce support for providers.
The letter was sent on August 27 but Senator Reynolds' office only received it last week, after it was inadvertently sent to the wrong address.
The Commonwealth has agreed to one of Ms Davidson's request, confirming that the National Disability Insurance Agency would allow ACT-based providers access to help from one of the providers in NSW's "contingent workforce panel".
Ms Davidson had also sought financial assisted for Canberra providers, similar to what had been offered in Sydney's coronavirus hotspot areas.
Senator Reynolds' office did not explicitly rule out cash help for ACT providers, but noted that the majority of supports were already being offered nationwide.
Ms Davidson this week said she would continue to advocate for help for the sector.
"The ACT's disability support workers are fantastic at supporting our community, but they are stretched and often work across multiple sites and organisations," she said.
"While community transmission remains in the ACT, I am concerned about potential workforce shortages should workers need to enter a 14-day quarantine.
"This is a high-risk community when it comes to COVID-19, for both people with disability and workers, so it's important we identify ways to keep them safe and supported during this time."
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