News | 29 July 2020

Get your mask on!

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A big face mask emoji on a green background

There’s been a bunch of new info released over the last couple of weeks around masks and people with disability. We’ve popped it all in the one place so you don’t have to go hunting. (And we have done our best to try and explain what it all means which has NOT been easy…)

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Update: Thursday July 30 – new rules in regional Victoria

Everyone in Victoria will now have to wear a mask whenever they leave their home.

People who live in metro Melbourne (and Mitchell Shire) have been required to wear masks since last week.

This will now be extended to everyone in the rest of Victoria.

This will start at 11.59pm on Sunday August 2.

And from 11:59pm tonight people from the local government areas of Colac-Otway, Greater Geelong, Surf Coast, Moorabool, Golden Plains, and the Borough of Queenscliffe will no longer be able to visit people or have visitors at home.

👉 You can find more info on the Department of Health and Human Services website

Update: Wednesday July 29 – buying PPE using your NDIS funds

From today NDIS participants who rely on support workers for face to face help every day can claim the cost of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from their NDIS funds.

But – and this is an important but – this is just for participants who live in Victoria or New South Wales.

People who live in their own home and who test positive for COVID-19 and are required to self-isolate or quarantine can also now pay for the costs of getting the house cleaned from their NDIS funds.

The NDIA have also said that if a participant has a worker at their home who later tests positive they can also claim cleaning costs from their NDIS funds.

This info is not on the participant side of the NDIS website – it’s on the provider side.

You can pay for the cleaning and the PPE from your core funds.

The kinds of PPE you can purchase are masks, face shields and gloves. The NDIS website says you cannot buy hand sanitiser – that remains an “everyday expense”.

If you are Agency managed, you can buy PPE through registered providers.

Self-managed and plan managed participants can choose where they buy PPE and claim from their funds in their usual way.

It’s important to know that the NDIA have said that disability service providers can now charge participants for the cost of providing PPE to support workers. But they CAN’T charge you unless they talk to you first.

So you need to talk to your provider about who is going to organise PPE – are you going to provide it or are they?

While this is a helpful change for people who are self-managed or employ their own support workers, this change has also shifted the cost of providing PPE from providers to participants. Without any increase in people’s plans. 

For everyone else around the country, the advice from the NDIA remains the same. If you live outside Vic or NSW you can only buy PPE with your NDIS funds if it was something you regularly bought before the pandemic began.

At the moment the ability to pay for cleaning after isolation or quarantine also only applies to people who live in NSW or Victoria. But if this does happen to you make sure you call the NDIS call centre (1800 800 110) dial 5 and ask to speak to someone in the special coronavirus teams. They should be able to help you.

Don’t forget the NDIS introduced a change last month to make core funds completely flexible. So you no longer need to have at least $1 in your consumables budget for this – you can just use your core funds. (If you want to read more about this check out our article about increased flexibility)

Unfortunately the NDIA say they won’t increase people’s plans to cover the cost of PPE. This seems an incredibly short-sighted move in the middle of a global pandemic. People shouldn’t have to choose between buying PPE or getting support.

So if you are running out of funds because things have changed, again try calling the NDIS call centre and speaking to someone in the special coronavirus teams.

There has been plenty of anxiety and confusion over the last few weeks about the situation with masks and PPE. It’s good to see common sense has prevailed. All we want is for people with disability to have what they need to stay safe and well during this really difficult time.

👉 You can read the Minister’s press release on the NDIS website

👉 You can read the detail about how to claim for PPE here

Update: Friday July 24 – free reusable masks for people with disability

The Department of Health and Human Services are going to make 2 million reusable masks available to “vulnerable” Victorians (please note: their language not ours).

This will include people with disability.

If you are a person with disability, have a chronic health condition, or come from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background then you can receive a free reusable mask.

Workers who work with vulnerable Victorians will also be eligible to receive free masks.

❓So how do you get one?

Over the next couple of weeks the masks will be distributed to:

😷 chemists

😷 GPs

😷 local government offices

😷 community health centres

😷 disability service providers

😷 not for profit agencies that work with people who are vulnerable

😷 Supported Residential Services and boarding houses

😷 Aboriginal Community Controlled (Health) Organisations

😷 And others (the full list is on the website)

Individuals cannot order masks themselves – they have to go to one of these places to get them.

Orgs will start receiving masks from next week.

Each person will be eligible for two free masks.

People are encouraged to use whatever face coverings they have available until then – including scarves, bandanas, paper masks etc

👉 You can read more about the announcement on the Department’s website here.

Update: Tuesday July 21 – exactly who MUST wear masks?

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services have updated their website. They have provided more information about exemptions from the order to wear a face mask in public if you live in metro Melbourne (or Mitchell Shire).

You don’t have to wear a mask if:

😷 If you are a child under 12 years old

😷 you have a disability or medical condition where you cannot wear a mask

😷 you have a mental health condition which means you cannot wear a mask

😷 and if you are communicating with a person who is Deaf or hard of hearing where they need to see your mouth to communicate.

The website says:

“Do people with a disability have to wear a face covering?

Yes, people with a disability must wear a face covering unless it is impractical or unsafe to do so for medical, communication or other individual risk factors. “

We understand that there will be more info released later today – we will bring it to you as soon as we can.

The NDIS have also updated some information for Victorians on their website today on these pages:

Update: Sunday July 19 – Masks MUST be worn

The Victorian government has just announced everyone in the Melbourne metro area and Mitchell Shire MUST wear a mask whenever they leave home.

To give people time to get ready, this will be introduced from 11.59pm on Wednesday July 22.

The government has said it does not have to be a surgical grade mask – it can be any kind of face covering, a reusable mask, a scarf, a bandana will all do the trick.

The fine for not wearing a mask will be $200.

The government has said there will be some reasons people won’t have to wear a mask – for example people who have a medical condition, or kids under 12. Or in some workplaces where it is not practical – for example call centres where people are talking on the phone.

We know lots of people with disability won’t be able to wear a mask. We also know that many people with a disability need people to remove their masks so they can communicate effectively – for example people who are Deaf or hard of hearing.

So we will try and find out what the process is for getting an exemption and share when we know.

In the meantime you can read the media release on the Department of Health and Human Services website.

There is lots of info about masks on this page, including a video on how to make a mask.

And here are some instructions on how to make a mask.

Friday July 17 – Health authorities recommend masks for peeps in Melbourne

People with disability and their workers in and around Melbourne are now being encouraged to wear masks when working together.

On Wednesday July 16 Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd spoke at a press conference about COVID-19. He said:

“The AHPPC (Australian Health Protection Principal Committee) is now also recommending the disability support workers and other people working with people with disability wear face masks when working with their clients with a disability in the areas under level 3 restrictions in Melbourne and the surrounding regions in Victoria.

Where possible, it’s also wise for people with disability to wear a mask while receiving services in their homes.”

He said the recommendation did not apply to children. Or anyone who has breathing difficulties. Or anyone who has a physical condition that makes wearing a mask difficult.

Then on Friday, July 17 a joint media release from federal government Ministers said the Australian government was making a “recommendation of mandatory use of masks for disability workers in the hot spot areas”.

And then the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission got in on the action and sent an alert to providers which told them about the press release. The alert said:

“They recommend the mandatory use of masks by disability workers in the areas of Greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shire that have been declared COVID-19 hotspots.”

Soooo it’s not really clear if it’s a recommendation or it’s mandatory since they use both words – you’ll have to be the judge.

In any case the Minster also announced he would be making one million masks available for support workers, providers and self-managed participants in Victoria. As well as another million for aged care workers.

Providers and self-managed NDIS participants can request access to the masks (and other personal protective equipment) from the National Medical Stockpile by contacting .

But you can only get access to the stockpile when you cannot get what you need through your usual sources.

This is the same process as the first lockdown.

The NDIA also updated their information for Victorian participants on the NDIS website.

Most importantly, they said that while the government had recommended everyone wear masks when working together you CANNOT use your NDIS funds to purchase them – unless buying masks and other PPE was something you routinely did before the pandemic began.

This does not seem very fair – or sensible. If the government is recommending everyone wear masks why can’t you use your NDIS funds to purchase them?


Other helpful resources

There are a bunch of helpful resources out there about how to wear masks.

The Department of Health have some fact sheets for people with disability and workers:

There is a great video from Australia’s Chief Nursing and Midwifery officer about how support workers should use and wear PPE

The Department of Health has an infographic which explains when you need to wear a mask and how to put it on

It has also been translated into lots of different languages

The Victorian government’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has lots of information about when and why you should wear a mask. It includes a couple of videos.

And the DHHS page on COVID-19 for people with disability now includes a handful of factsheets and Easy Read documents.

And the Australian government has produced some material in Easy Read.

Deaf Victoria have made some advocacy graphics for the Deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing community, to help make your communication preferences known when someone is wearing a mask. Find the full range of graphics on the Deaf Victoria website here.
Hello, I'm Deaf colour graphic #3 Hello, I'm hard of hearing graphic colour #2 Hello, I'm Deafblind yellow graphic #1
And finally the good folks at Ideas have pulled lots of info together all in one place

This might also be a good time for support workers to refresh themselves about PPE and infection control. There is a free online module from the Department of Health. You have to create a log in, but once you have done that you are good to go. And anyone can do it – people with disability, family members, support workers.

And don’t forget Ideas are the organisation behind the Disability Information Helpline. Remember this hotline is just for people with disability and their families to help with all things Coronavirus.

They can help you with any question you might have. If you are feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start they will do all the hard work for you and get you the info and help you need. Just give them a call.

The hotline number is 1800 643 787

It is open Monday to Friday 8 am to 8 pm (AEST) and Saturday and Sunday 9 am to 7 pm (AEST).

You can read more on the Ideas website.

Melbourne please remember not everyone can wear a mask safely. This includes some people with disability. The law says that this is okay. Choose understanding not judgement.


Other links

Want to wade through all the detail yourself? Here’s the links:

Press release from Premier Daniel Andrews about wearing masks in public

Joint press release from Minister for the NDIS Stuart Robert, Minister for Health Greg Hunt, and Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians Richard Colbeck recommending people with disability and workers wear masks when working together

Advice for Victorians on the NDIS website

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services Coronavirus page – has information about latest restrictions and testing sites

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd’s press conference transcript from July 16.

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