Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme
Minister for Government Services

Transcript: Doorstop, Gold Coast, Wednesday 29 July 2020

29 July 2020

The Hon Stuart Robert MP

Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme
Minister for Government Services
E&OE

MINISTER ROBERT:

Good morning. Whilst it's beautiful to be in Queensland and the sun is shining, we should spare a thought to our friends and colleagues in Victoria in some parts of New South Wales, where community transmission of COVID-19 continues. And I think I can speak for all of us, in terms of our heartfelt reaching out to some people in some very difficult circumstances. And whilst I’ll also have a few things to say about the NDIS and how we're running, it’s important to understand that the NDIS and the way the NDIS operates is very different to the way the aged care sector operates.

In Victoria today, there are over 100,000 participants in the NDIS, and as of this morning, 25 of those participants have tested positive to COVID-19 and at this stage three are in hospital. About 5,000 participants live in supported independent living - what would have been called group homes in the past - and half of those are run by the Victorian Government as an in kind support and run totally by the Victorian Government. So 95,000 participants, either live in their own home, or with family or in other living arrangements. The average supported independent living across the country, only has three participants. So what you're seeing is a very, very different structure within the disability sector, right across the country and in Victoria to that of aged care. But having said that, in early March, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the government put in place a range of measures to assist with the pandemic and today I'm announcing a range of other measures the government is putting in place in an abundance of caution to assist participants in Victoria and New South Wales.

And whilst today's announcement is specific for Victoria and New South Wales, we're continuing to monitor the circumstances, across the country on a daily basis, and we’ll make further decisions as needed, if community transmission does move into other states and territories. But for Victoria and New South Wales as at today, participants in the scheme will be able to claim within their plans for any PPE - protective equipment - they need in as part of the attendant care for their daily lives. Likewise for providers that are providing attendant care services to those 100,000 participants in Victoria and many tens of thousands of participants in New South Wales for protective equipment. that they need in their workplace and of course their workplace is providing attendant care, either in support independent living in people's homes and other areas where participants live. So participants will be able to claim as of today in Victoria New South Wales, and so will providers. Likewise for those 5,000 participants in supported independent living in Victoria, if they find themselves in a position where they have tested positive or they've had to be tested and quarantined because results aren't known, there'll be funds up to 1,200 dollars for providers to be able to manage that circumstance in that house, whether it's for their staff just to quarantine and cover the costs, whether it's for extra costs within the houses, we'll make those funds available for any participant that is either tested positive or been tested and awaiting results. That way providers won't find themselves in difficulties, as they seek to manage this.

Likewise, the National Disability Insurance Agency, which is headquartered in Victoria, is working very closely with the State Department DHHS literally on a daily basis, led by the CEO to ensure that any other measures that may be needed will be provided. It's a difficult circumstance in Victoria. And whilst you could say that only 25 participants who have tested positive is a very low number, I’d rather the number was zero, and I think we all would, but in an abundance of caution, we want to provide as much assurance and certainty for participants and providers as possible, hence the announcement of these measures today. We'll continue to work very closely with the states and territories and continue to look at what further measures may be needed. In that line the disability, the DRC, disability reform council met, all the states and territory ministers met last Friday, so four days ago, continuing our discussion on how we respond in these quite extraordinary circumstances. That's the next step that we're making noting that previous measures that we put in place, including amounts of money for deep cleans and other areas, remain in place. Happy to take any questions.

JOURNALIST:

Minister I’ve just got some questions on the COVIDSafe app, who is the minister responsible for the app, is it you or is it Minister Hunt?

MINISTER ROBERT:

I'm responsible for building it but the business owner is Minister Hunt because it is a Health app, but it was built by the Digital Transformation Agency which reports to me.

JOURNALIST:

Why hasn't it worked as you intended it to?

MINISTER ROBERT:

It has worked. In fact, New South Wales informed me yesterday that five cases that hadn't been picked up by manual tracing have been picked up by the app. The app was always designed to augment manual tracing. It's been used well over 300 times and it's doing its job exactly as it should.

JOURNALIST:

The Prime Minister described it as a sunscreen equivalent the Victorian Premier has been critical of it, UK ditched its own app, is it time for a change to the Apple/Google model?

MINISTER ROBERT:

There's 34 apps in use right across the world, as we speak. The Sax Institute has shown that the use of apps is crucial, to use their words. The University of Adelaide has shown that all the apps across the world, ours is by far the best. As at this morning, 6.81 million Australians have downloaded the app, one of the highest threshold points anywhere in the world. It's being used, and as New South Wales has shown, it's now picking up cases that manual tracing isn't picking up. So with great respect, I reject your premise that it's not working, it is working exceptionally well.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think more people should have downloaded it?

MINISTER ROBERT:

I would love more people to download it. If you think that the Chief Medical Officer has said about 18 million Australians have mobile phones, the idea that 6.81 million Australians have downloaded it is excellent, but we'd love more. And I think, basic maths will tell us that the more people that download the app, the more effective it will be. And as community transmission, which is all about transmission that we don't know the origin from as we're seeing that move through Victoria, there can be no greater impetus for Australians right now, thank to download and use the app.

JOURNALIST:

Have you downloaded the app?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Absolutely. Downloaded it literally within the first second that it went live.

JOURNALIST:

Is it working [inaudible]

MINISTER ROBERT:

Absolutely it's working correctly. We're now up to the eighth release we're putting a release in every single week to improve it as much as possible, it's now available in five different languages, with more languages being planned.

JOURNALIST:

Why don't you think more people have download it?

MINISTER ROBERT:

I can't possibly speak for the 60 per cent of Australians that have chosen not to download it. Not one that likes to speak to the world, but I would certainly encourage all Australians, it is worthwhile. It is just one extra brick in the wall, to keep Australians safe and Australians should use it.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think it has been a hard sell though?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Considering that there's 34 apps around the world and this one is considered the best in the world, its density – so it’s use across percentage of the population - is one of the highest densities in the world [inaudible]

JOURNALIST:
[inaudible]

MINISTER ROBERT:

Yes there are.  So if I look at Victoria right now there's about 1,500 young people in residential aged care and about 700 of those in the cluster or hot areas if you like.

JOURNALIST:

The Fair Work Commission has awarded paid pandemic leave to aged care workers on the award, union say this needs to be extended to carers of people with disabilities, given they work in similar conditions, would the government support such a move?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Remember the disability sector is very, very different to the aged care sector. Rather than large numbers of senior Australians in large centres with workers going there, the vast bulk of participants, so Victoria over 100,000 only 5,000 when supported independent living. The vast majority participants are at home, or living by themselves, or in other settings. So it's a very, very different setting. So whilst there is some crossover, in terms of the work is the work between the sectors, the settings are extraordinarily different.

JOURNALIST:

Last question from me, how are you currently financially supporting disability carers and need to self-isolate because of COVID-19?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well right now we've announced funds up to 1,200 dollars for those who are working in the support independent living space so if they need to isolate those funds were available per day to providers to cover the costs for their staff.

Page last updated: 29 July 2020