Greenacres Disability Services has welcomed a union call for urgent federal government action to help disability support workers get their COVID vaccination.
An Australian Services Union survey of 1000 disability support workers found only one in five were fully vaccinated and only 25 per cent had had their first dose. It also showed 36 per cent were concerned about side-effects of the Astra Zeneca vaccine.
The union's NSW and ACT secretary Natalie Lang has written to National Disability Insurance Scheme Minister Linda Reynolds urging her to make the Pfizer vaccine available to all disability support workers.
Ms Lang also encouraged the minister to provide paid vaccine leave for all disability workers and provide an additional paid leave day for all NDIS workers, including casuals, in recognition of their essential work
"Workers in the disability sector do some of the most important and challenging jobs in this country so the federal government has a responsibility to help them do their jobs safely," she said.
The union does not support mandatory vaccination measures for workers in the disability sector but says those who want to be vaccinated should have access as soon as possible.
Ms Lang said people who received disability services had the right, under the NDIS, to insist on support workers who had been vaccinated, and with a few changes the government could dramatically increase vaccination rates very quickly in the disability sector.
Greenacres chief executive Chris Christodoulou said any measures the government could take that encouraged disability support workers to be vaccinated was welcome.
"From our perspective we can't force workers to be vaccinated, it is a matter of choice. But any incentives like that would be certainly supported and welcomed," he said.
As an essential service, Greenacres continues to operate during the present lockdown.
Mr Christodoulou said last year the social enterprise was completely unprepared for the first lockdown and had to shut everything down, apart from a few product lines such as body bags. This time it was well prepared to continue providing exempt services.
"We are operating mainly because we want participants who require our services to make the choice about whether they want to be here," he said.
"We are here for them. A lot of them have pretty high anxiety because they don't have any other form of support.
"The bigger part of Greenacres that everyone seems to forget is all of the community support we provide in other locations other than our enterprises. We are open but this lockdown is having a significant impact.
"Because of the way the NDIS is funded we only now get funded for every hour of support that we provide a participant. If a participant is not here for an hour or a day, we don't get funded for that.
"What happens now when 40 to 50 per cent of our participants are not here, we don't get funding from the government. But of course we still have all the permanent staffing costs."
Mr Christodoulou said even if Greenacres was eligible for the government's business grant package it would only get back a fraction of what it was now losing.
For participants who are still going to work at Greenacres the disability support service has robust WHS, hygiene and social distancing procedures in place.
"We are much better prepared," he said.
There are regular meetings looking at the latest Public Health Orders and how they can be implemented.
QR codes are used on arrival and departure, there is face scan temperature testing, questions about movements outside work, and education about best handwashing and social distancing practices.
Greenacres also has a fogging machine to sanitise all workplaces in the manufacturing area every day.
Mr Christodoulou said Greenacres was well aware of how highly contagious the Delta strain of COVID-19 was and was putting in place the best possible protection measures it could.
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