Report Shows Disabled People Missed Out In COVID Response – Disability Support Network

The Disability Commissioner’s new report (Inquiry into the Support of Disabled People and Whānau During Omicron) highlights failings in the COVID response for disabled people – communication has been confusing and difficult to access; COVID vaccinations and personal protective equipment (PPE) have been difficult for disabled people to access; and support services have been adversely impacted, says New Zealand Disability Support Network CEO Peter Reynolds.

“We have been experiencing an extraordinary period in the COVID pandemic and its impacts on disabled people have been particularly pronounced,” says Mr Reynolds.

“Throughout the pandemic, NZDSN has highlighted that communication and leadership for the disability sector has been sorely lacking. Our experience of the COVID response is that it has been largely reactive, with little forward planning or consideration of the needs of disabled people.

“Providers have struggled to access information in a timely manner for their staff and the people they support. Vaccination mandates, while supported in principle, were not well thought out. At one point the disability sector was given four working days to implement the mandate and terminate staff who did not comply.

“Access to vaccinations and appropriate PPE has been problematic and should have been a priority for this at-risk population. Australia, for example, made access to vaccinations and PPE freely available to disabled people from the outset.

“The one opportunity missed in the report is the involvement of disability support providers to contribute positively to the recommendations made. The omission of providers as a reliable source of information means that not all the opportune channels are being considered. This is particularly the case when one observes the strength of relationship that frequently exists between disabled person and their support worker. We would argue that providers need to be included in the options/channels involved,” says Mr Reynolds.

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