Many people with disability, families and service providers are understandably very concerned about the outbreak of COVID-19. Some people with disability are more at risk of developing a serious infection. Moreover, many people are worried about being able to access essential disability and medical services.

There is some help out there. We have put together a list of resources that might assist the people you support. But first, two very important notices:

  1. This article does not provide medical advice. If you are concerned about your health, or the health of somebody you support, please seek medical attention or contact the Australian Government’s National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080. If the situation is an emergency or you are struggling to breathe, please call 000.

  2. All of this information is correct at the time of writing, but the nature of a public health crisis is that it is a fast-changing environment. We have included the links to the sources in each section. We strongly recommend following those links for the most up to date information. 


Click here to see the government’s advice on who is most at risk.

There are two distinct groups of people we must be aware of: those who are most at risk of coming in contact with the virus and those who are most at risk of developing a serious infection. 

The list of people at risk of coming in contact with the virus is likely to grow significantly. But as it currently stands, people most at risk of coming in contact with the virus are:

  • People who have been in a country or region classified as high risk (currently mainland China, Iran, Italy and Korea).

  • People who have been in contact someone with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID- 19.

The list of people who are most at risk of developing a serious infection less likely to change. Many people with disability will fall into this group. It includes:

  • people with compromised immune systems

  • people in group residential settings

  • people with diagnosed chronic medical conditions

  • elderly people

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (due to higher rates of chronic illness)

  • people in detention facilities.


A 10% COVID-19 loading will be added to price limits for certain supports for up to six months:

  • Assistance with Daily Life (excluding Supported Independent Living) and Assistance with Social and Community Participation)

  • Improved Daily Living

Providers can also continue to claim for the increased use of cleaning and personal protective equipment associated with COVID-19.

So far this has only been announced in the Minister’s media release but keep an eye out here for more details.


The NDIA response to COVID-19 can be found here.

People who have a scheduled plan review and are happy with their current plan will be given the opportunity to renew their plan budget for up to 24 months.

For people who need to review their current plan or are heading into their first planning meeting, the NDIA is planning to do all phone meetings over the phone where possible. NDIA offices are now closed to the public.


The NDIS Minister has announced that registered NDIS providers may receive a one-month advance payment based on a monthly average supports delivered in the previous 3 month period to provide immediate cash flow relief. More details to come.


People who are not able to find a provider to deliver an essential service should contact the NDIA on 1800 800 110. They are saying that they will work with state and territory governments to sources an alternative provider.

The NDIA will also be reaching out to participants who are considered high risk or have complex support needs.

At the time of writing there is very little information on guaranteeing the supply of disability services. When information does come out, it should be found here. The NDIA does promise they are in conversations with Services Australia and others to make this happen.

Providers are being encouraged to continue to deliver essential supports. Providers are also being reminded about their obligations under the terms of their registration and the Code of Conduct, including to provide continuity of services.

However, obviously, there will be times when the safest thing to do will be to not provide a support, particularly if there is significant risk to the participant. So hopefully we will see more information about how to manage these conflicting priorities in the near future.

The NDIA will be reaching out to “targeted higher risk NDIS participants” to ensure these people continue to receive the essential disability related supports they need.

Providers must also inform the Quality and Safeguards Commission about changes to their capacity to provide services as well as reportable incidents.


Unsurprisingly, the Quality and Safeguards Commission is saying that workers who have just returned from high risk areas or who’ve been in contact with a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19 should not have contact with NDIS participants. But you probably would have figured that out by yourself. Read more here.

The two biggest questions on our minds at the moment are:

  1. How will the government guarantee that people with disability can access disability supports as the number of cases in the community grows? We can expect that a significant percentage of the disability workforce will be unable to work at some point.

  2. How can we guarantee the delivery of essential services to people with disability who are self-isolating or with confirmed cases of COVID-19?

I will cry ACTUAL TEARS of relief when these questions are answered.

In aged care, the government has agreed to make a temporary workforce available to address shortages. In cases of infection, aged care providers can access additional stuff at no extra cost. Read more here.


On 21 March, NDIS Minister Robert announced that there would be changes to existing cancellation rules to allow providers to claim for 100% of a cancelled support. It was also noted that the definition of “short term cancellation” would be broadened, though the new definition has not yet been announced. We recommend checking for updates here.


Many people in the community are looking for ways to support each other through this difficult period. People are signing up on the website Gather My Crew to volunteer their services to people in need. If people with a disability have a support gap that they cannot fill, they should consider looking for support on this website or creating a profile to let their informal supporters and community know exactly how they can help.


For updates, click here.

Many services, including day programs, jobs, regular activities and therapies, will be cancelled as a result of COVID-19. This might mean that residents of group homes might be spending more time at home than the SIL provider quoted for. In these instances, the NDIA is providing the following advice to SIL providers:

  • SIL quotes include irregular hours for intermittent occurrence of 1-3 days. These can be used for disruption in routine caused by the coronavirus.

  • If the SIL provider has used all their irregular hours from the quote or if the change in routine is lasting longer than 3 days, they should create a service booking for Community Participation for the resident’s Core budget. This will require the provider to be registered for Community Participation.


If you are concerned about your health, or the health of somebody you support, please seek medical attention or contact the Australian Government’s National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080. If the situation is an emergency or you are struggling to breathe, please call 000.

For more information on accessing health services, click here.

 People can now access bulk billed telehealth services from doctors, nurses, midwives and mental health professionals. These services will be available to:

  • People who have been asked to self-isolate

  • People over 70

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over 50

  • People with chronic health conditions or who are immunocompromised

  • People who are pregnant or have new babies.

If you are going to go to the doctor’s clinic, call them in advance and let them know about your travel history, symptoms or if you have come in contact with potential cases.


For up to date information on the testing criteria, click here.

People are only being tested for COVID-19 if they meet any of the following criteria:

  • They have returned from overseas in the past 14 days and have developed a respiratory illness.

  • Have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and have a respiratory illness.

  • Have severe pneumonia with no clear cause.

  • Are a healthcare worker in direct contact with patients and have a respiratory illness and fever.


Many people with disability are very worried about being able to access essential food supplies. And there is no way to sugar coat this- it’s a jungle out there. But like all jungles, there is a way out. Here are some ways people with disability can get groceries:

  • Coles and Woolworths have both implemented priority hours for people with disability and elderly people. The hour is between 7-8am. People will need a Pensioner Concession Card, Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, Companion Card  or Health Care Card to enter. Woolworth’s priority hour is currently scheduled to finish on 20th March, but if current demand levels continue, it may be extended.

  • Woolworths has priority delivery times for people who are elderly, have a disability, have a compromised immune system or are required to self-isolate. The form can be found here. They are saying it might take up to 48 hours to assess the requests. But they are not necessarily notifying people when they have been approved for priority delivery. So people should log in to their Woolworths account regularly to check if they have been granted access to new times. Woolworths is still accepting deliveries from all customers. Deliveries can be left at the door.

  • Coles has limited its online deliveries to customers with disability or elderly people. It is not 100% clear how people can let them know if they have a disability, but their best bet would be to contact them on 1800 455 400.  People should keep in mind that they might have to call a few times to get through and should expect long waiting times.

  • The NDIS website is advising that providers should do what is necessary to ensure people “remain safe and have adequate supplies.” This can include going to the pharmacy or grocery shopping on someone’s behalf.

  • Many people are looking for ways to volunteer and support each other through this crisis. So people with disability should consider asking their friends, families and neighbours to collect groceries for them. They will probably jump at the opportunity to feel useful.

  • The Victorian Government has announced that emergency relief packages will be provided to people who are self-isolating and do not have support networks that can provide food and essential supplies. People can access the packages by contacting the Victoria Coronavirus Hotline: 1800 675 398 or visit:

  • If all these measures fail, people can contact Foodbank or Ask Izzy to find out which charities are delivering in their area. But as you can imagine, many of these services are overwhelmed at the moment. So it is best to try other options first.

The current advice is that people should have two weeks’ worth of food supplies in their homes.


People are being advised to have 1 months’ supply of medications on them. But it is important to note that there is no need to panic about medical shortage. The Department of Health has not received any notifications about medicine shortages (click here for up to date information).

From the 19th March, the government has put limits on the purchase of medication. They stress that this is due to the increased demand caused by stockpiling, not by medication shortages. Some prescription medications are limited to one month supply, and some over the counter medications are limited to one unit per purchase. Pharmacists are also required to confirm that people requesting inhalers have an appropriate diagnosis. You can find find information on the medication limits here.

The government is fast-tracking the implementation of its e-Prescribing program. It should be available to 80% of general practices over the next 8 weeks. This will allow people to get scripts without needing to go to the doctor’s surgery. Read more here.

Many pharmacies will also delivery medications. There’s even an app for that.


On March 22nd, the Australian government announced a time-limited coronavirus income supplement payment of $550 per fortnight. If you are already receiving one of these eligible payments, you do not need to do anything. The payment will be added automatically and set up almost immediately. You can read more about it here. To be eligible, a person needs to receive the:

  • Jobseeker Payment (or payments transitioning into the JobSeeker Payment; including Partner Allowance, Widow Allowance, Sickness Allowance and Wife Pension)

  • Youth Allowance Jobseeker

  • Parenting Payment (Partnered and Single)

  • Farm Household Allowance

  • Special Benefit recipients

We were disappointed to see that DSP and carers payments are not on the list.

They are also temporarily expanding eligibility and decreasing waiting times for Jobseeker and Youth Allowance Jobseeker payments (read more here).

There will also be two one-off payments of $750 made to people who receive certain Centrelink payments or hold eligible concession cards (read more here). The first payment will be made between 12th March- 13th April 2020. To be eligible people need to receive:

  • Age Pension

  • Disability Support Pension

  • Carer Payment

  • Carer Allowance

  • Parenting Payment

  • Wife Pension

  • Widow B Pension

  • ABSTUDY (Living Allowance)

  • Austudy

  • Bereavement Allowance

  • Newstart Allowance

  • Youth Allowance

  • Partner Allowance

  • Sickness Allowance

  • Special Benefit

  • Widow Allowance

  • Farm Household Allowance

  • Family Tax Benefit A

  • Family Tax Benefit B

  • Double Orphan Pension.

Or have a:

  • Pensioner Concession Cardholders

  • Commonwealth Seniors Health Cardholders

  • Veteran Gold Card

The second payment will be will be available from the 10th July onwards. The eligibility is the same as the first payment. However, people who receive the coronavirus supplement payment will not be eligible for the second payment.

People can receive both the first and second payment. However, it is only one payment per round. Regardless of how many criteria a person meets.

The government is also allowing some people whose income has been affected by the coronavirus to access up to $10,000 for their superannuation (read more here).

People who have been instructed to self-isolate by a medical professional or government authority will be exempt from Centrelink Mutual Obligations in this period.

Casual workers who have self-isolated or have COVID-19 might also be eligible for sickness allowance. The government has promised to speed up the processing time to 5 days.


The Australian government is also providing relief packages between $20,000- $100,000 for small to medium businesses and Not For Profits (read more here). To be eligible businesses must:

  • Have an annual turnover of less than $50 million.

  • Employ people.

You will receive the packages automatically as reductions of your BAS liability to the ATO.


Up to date information on public gatherings can be found here.

The Federal Government has introduced a four week suspension on all non-essential gatherings.

  • Pubs, registered and licensed clubs, hotels (excluding accommodation)

  • gyms and indoor sporting venues

  • cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos and night clubs

  • restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery

  • religious gatherings, places of worship or funerals

Some states and territories are implementing their own additional restriction. So please check what applies to your local area.

Essential gatherings are limited to 100 people indoors and 500 people outdoors. People are being urged to stay 1.5m apart.

Public health organisations are also urging people to practice social distancing. Which is a fancy way of saying, keeping away from other people whenever you can. Social distancing can slow down the spread of the virus, so that it remains manageable for a health system. People with disability who are at risk of developing a serious infection should especially consider social distancing. The government has a fact sheet on social distancing here.

Special restrictions also apply to residential aged care facilities.


As the transmission of COVID-19 spreads, it is increasingly important that support workers understand how to keep themselves and the people they support infection free.

The Department of Health has developed an online learning module and webinar about infection prevention for COVID-19.

We have also developed a free, online module for support workers on Supporting People to Stay Infection Free. Sign up as many learners as you need at no extra cost. You can also host the course on your own LMS.

Some basics to remember are:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, before and after eating, and after going to the toilet.

  • Cover your cough and sneeze, dispose of tissues, and wash your hands.

  • If unwell, avoid contact with others (stay more than 1.5 metres from people).

  • Exercise personal responsibility for social distancing measures.*

*Source: Department of Health


The next little while is going to be tough for many people’s mental health.

People can now have Medicare rebated telephone session with mental health professionals, providing they meet the telehealth criteria (see ‘Accessing health services’).

Beyond Blue has some advice for people about protecting their mental health during the outbreak.

Of course, there are always phone services available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. People can call for themselves or to get advice about someone else.

  • Lifeline 13 11 14

  • Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

  • Kid’s Helpline 1800 55 1800

  • Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467


A number of organisations have produced Easy Read information the coronavirus. Here are a couple of great ones we have found:

 Little Puddins has also produced a coronavirus social story.

There is no getting around the fact that this is a scary time for everyone, particularly people with disability and their families. But with vigilance and compassion we can get through it. The disability sector has always modelled both of these practices. By putting those principals at the centre of everything we do, we can keep ourselves and the community safe.

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