This report reflects on a two year project, funded by the Victorian government, to help the disability sector protect society's more vulnerable people during the COVID-19 pandemic. The project has concluded, but has left a significant legacy of achievements.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic quickly shone a light on the challenges facing the community services sector when protecting society’s more vulnerable people in a pandemic. The early outbreaks and deaths in aged care brought this home, and the focus of governments turned to that sector.
NDS undertook strong advocacy both at the national and state levels in the early days of the pandemic, arguing for a discrete focus on the particular needs of people with disability and the organisations which support them. It was important to ensure that disability was not treated as a ‘poor cousin,’ with provision of supports well behind the aged care sector.
The Victorian government recognised the needs of the sector, funding NDS to support the sector’s response to COVID-19 from July 2020. Safer and Stronger was funded to work with providers on key priority areas:
- Business continuity
- Infection prevention and control
The project provided practical information, guidance, support, and active intervention to all Victorian providers to enable services to respond to COVID-19 and emerge as stronger organisations delivering high-quality services to people with disability.
The project was established to:
- Keep the sector up to date with knowledge and government advice
- Provide disability sector intelligence to the government
- Build Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) capacity in services
- Capture, curate and disseminate examples of best practice to the sector
- Identify and support high risk cohorts
- Ensure business continuity issues are understood and addressed.
As the pandemic continued, the project adapted to meet the emerging needs of the sector, including a focus on:
- Mental health and wellbeing
- Workforce shortages
Safer and Stronger, originally funded to 30 June 2021, was extended through to 30 June 2022. This ensured continued support for the sector through the evolution of the coronavirus, repeated outbreaks, the extension of the State of Emergency and Public Health Order restrictions and associated ongoing challenges.