Ausnew Home Care | Dylan Alcott's calls for free rapid antigen tests

Dylan Alcott's calls for free rapid antigen tests, NDIS funding guarantee backed by disability advocates

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Advocates have backed new Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott's calls to provide free rapid antigen tests to people with disability, saying the measure could help save lives during the pandemic.

Alcott, the first person with a visible disability to receive the honour, said the needs of the people most vulnerable to COVID-19 needed to be prioritised as the country opened up.

"We've got to get them the vaccines and the tests and whatever else they need so they can get out there and start living their life," he said in his Australian of the Year acceptance speech.

"If a person with a disability needs a free daily RAT test so they feel confident going out and doing things that we all might take for granted, they've got to get that RAT test."

Earlier this week the federal government confirmed that National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants would be able to purchase RATs using funding in their plans.

But some advocates, including Sam Connor from People With Disability Australia, said more needed to be done to make RATs easily accessible.

"Half of us are already living in poverty — it's not feasible to expect people with disability to either give up their care through NDIS or to have to fork out of their pocket for multiple RATs, just so we can stay alive. This really needs to be addressed urgently," she said.

Sam Connor wearing glasses and a tartan dress, smiling at the camera.
Sam Connor said improving access to RATs needed to be addressed urgently.(ABC: Glyn Jones)

Many people with disability face a higher risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 and need to use tests to ensure carers and other visitors to the home are not infectious.

Australia's disability discrimination commissioner Ben Gauntlett said while improving access to RATs was important, other measures were needed to reduce the risk of contracting the virus.

Dr Guantlett also said RATs could be distributed on a needs basis, through a system like the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

"I think we need to look at RATs as part of a broader framework where we have things like P2 and N95 masks [and] protective equipment being provided, we allow people to get PCR tests when needed, people have workers coming to them in the home when needed," he told Radio National.

Ms Connor also said equitable access to PCR testing, making sure people with disability could get booster shots, as well as non-pharmaceutical measures like improving ventilation could help.

With COVID-19 now circulating widely in the community, Ms Connor said she knew many people who had not been out in two years due to the pandemic.

"There's been such huge changes in our lives, just in order to stay alive," she said.

Calls to keep NDIS 'fit for purpose for generations'

Alcott also called for guaranteed funding for the NDIS into the future, so people with disability can get the support to "be the people they want to be".

"We've got to fund the NDIS, first and foremost, and listen to people with lived experience and ask them what they need so they can get out and start living the lives they want to live and remind ourselves that it is an investment in people with disabilities, so they can get off pensions and start paying taxes, just like their carers and their family members as well," he said in his speech.

Dr Gauntlett said the NDIS needed to be effective and "fit for purpose for generations".

"I think the NDIS at the moment is struggling to adapt in the context of a pandemic which has lasted 24 months, to ensure it can provide a personalised service to each and every individual," he said on News24.

"And when the NDIS interacts with areas such as the healthcare system, housing, education or employment, it often struggles.

"So, what we need to do is to focus upon the underlying Australian disability strategy which relates to both Commonwealth and state disability policy to ensure the NDIS provides a really good service to each and every person in Australia, but also be constantly evolving to make sure the money spent is spent in the most effective way possible."

There are no plans to cut funding to the NDIS, though the federal government has flagged concerns about the cost of the program.

But Ms Connor said it was a vital service.

"Nobody ever questions if we need to fully fund Medicare," she said.

"We can't afford not to have an NDIS, and an NDIS is what we need to be safe and to live the same life as other Australians."


Source: ABC

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