Disability RAT overdue, increased workforce, retention allowance urgently needed: CPSU NSW

Disabled RAT overdue, increased workforce, retention allowance urgently needed: CPSU NSW Rapid antigen tests for disabled workers in NSW group homes welcome but overdue, Union of NSW Community and Public Services warning the Perrottet Government to provide additional labor and retention pay amid the crisis in the sector. CPSU NSW has written to NSW and Commonwealth ministers warning that there is a COVID-19 crisis in NSW’s privatized disabled sector, with workers being forced to put on themselves and those they care at risk of infection. The union said while government-provided RATs to staff were welcome, the workforce crisis facing the sector required a response similar to that seen in the aged care sector. “In the third year of the pandemic, the disability sector was already facing burnout and staff shortages before Premier Perrottet let Omicron tear itself apart,” said Troy Wright, Deputy Secretary of CPSU NSW. “The RATs for workers are a long overdue intervention in a sector that has been left to fend for itself for the past two years. Workers in the disabled sector are burnt out – we urgently need a workforce increase and a retention allowance, similar to the aged care premium. Workers found are not given RATs (and are told to find their own), many are not given proper PPE, and most are not given relevant information about workplace infections. A survey of NSW disability sector workers found that – Only 3.2% said they had access to RATs for themselves – 3.2% had tests for people they support – 72% said they wore full personal protective equipment at all times – 22% said they only wore PPE when there were known cases of COVID-19 ‘Now the most vulnerable in NSW, who don’t may not necessarily wear appropriate PPE or social distance, are unnecessarily exposed to a virus which they are more likely to end up in hospital than the rest of the population. “I hear stories of members who only find out there are cases of COVID-19 at the group home once they arrive for a shift. We hear from members telling us that their employer doesn’t have enough PPE or testing for them. “In a case I heard about recently, a psychologist refused to see a resident of a home for the disabled because the resident could not be tested for Covid. This resulted in this resident not receiving an updated behavior plan or new medications, and then this resident assaulted a worker. “Service providers don’t want to talk about the crisis in the disability sector because then they risk losing lucrative contracts, but we are dealing with something worse than elderly care.” The CPSU NSW has urged every disability service provider in the state to maintain minimum isolation standards for close contact, due to the intimate nature of most disability sector workers’ work.

Troy Wright 0488 373 209

/Public release. This material from the original organization/authors may be ad hoc in nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors.

Michael A. Bynum