"As the country responded to the [COVID-19] pandemic" writes Royal Commission Chair Ronald Sackville, "we observed with increasing anxiety, complaints from people with disability and their advocates about the absence of measures to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of people with disability during the crisis."
The need for physical distancing, especially during periods of "lockdown", has had a disproportionate effect upon people with mental health issues who were already dealing with the burden of social isolation.
As you can read on our website and in our Panorama magazine, Flourish Australia has worked hard to ensure that the people who access our services continue to receive support throughout this time. Initially, it was necessary to restrict face-to-face support to people whose wellbeing was seriously at risk. For others, remote support via telephone contact or technology such as ZOOM, has been used. Many group activities have continued in "electronic" form.
Mr Sackville noted in the Royal Commission’s second progress report: "No group has been more profoundly affected [physically, socially, economically and psychologically] than people with disability, especially those in closed environments who rely on others for the essentials of life." Yet, as reported by ABC News, Senior Counsel Assisting Kate Eastman SC told the Royal Commission that the Government’s initial emergency response plan for COVID-19 made no mention of people living with a disability. For this reason, the Royal Commission issued a Statement of Concern, calling on all governments to remedy this.
To investigate the experiences of people with disability during the pandemic, The Royal Commission is holding a quasi-public hearing in Sydney from Tuesday 18 to Friday 21 August 2020. The hearing will be closed to the public but will be live streamed on the Royal Commission website.
The most recent public hearing, over nine days in February 2020, related to people living with cognitive disability. Since then, pandemic restrictions have resulted in public hearings being postponed. Currently, such meetings may only be held remotely and not face-to-face or round-table.
Despite challenges posed by the pandemic, the Royal Commission has achieved a great deal in 2020 and is on track to deliver an Interim Report in October. It has also published six issues papers and a substantial number of research reports. If you would like to share something with the Royal Commission, they are still open for business.
Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability
GPO Box 1422, Brisbane, Qld 4001.
By Warren Heggarty from Panorama Magazine
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