Unimelb study found 27% support workers cancelled shifts due to COVID.

Unimelb study found 27% support workers cancelled shifts due to COVID.

The University of Melbourne study on Disability Support Workers during COVID-19

Disability Support Workers: The Forgotten Workforce in Covid-19

Disability Support Workers: The Forgotten Workforce in Covid-19 was a national survey of 357 disability support workers (DSWs) conducted online between May and June 2020.

Participants were from 18- 75 years old, 83% were women and 69% were under 50 years old.

The DSWs were asked about topics related to working in COVID-19.

These included: how and if they managed physical distancing, the presence of COVID-19 infection control training, how they accessed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), testing, who they worked with and if they provided supports and, the financial and mental impacts of working during the pandemic.

The key findings of the results are:

  • 90% of DWS surveyed said they were unable to practise social and physical distancing at work.
  • 53% of DWS work included providing support with responsibilities that require close personal contact with a participant like feeding and brushing teeth.
  • 23% of DWS did not receive any COVID-19 infection control training.
  • 64% had received or purchased some form of personal protection equipment (PPE). More than half (54%) received gloves and 37% received masks from their employer. Notably, 38% purchased their own masks
  • 23% had been tested for COVID-19 infection and 11% wanted to be tested.
  • 30% worked in two or more settings, and 14% worked in three or more settings.
  • 27% cancelled shifts because they were worried about COVID-19 infection and 35% had shifts cancelled by clients or employers due to fear of COVID-19.
  • 16% reported high psychological distress levels consistent with serious probable mental illness; 22% of workers experiencing financial stress had probable mental illness, compared to 14% among those who did not report financial problems. The financial stress of the pandemic is coupled with the increasing casualisation of the disability sector.

The new NDIS price guide features new support items such as PPE, including masks for providers delivering face-to-face supports, for workers and participants in NSW and Victoria.

At Aspect Plan Management, we are here to ensure that participants feel safe and supported. If you have any concerns or queries on how to access PPE, please contact us at 1300 770 986.

Further results of the study can be accessed at University of Melbourne.

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