It has been a devastating year for the disability sector, with the Morrison government shirking responsibility at every turn to protect its most vulnerable citizens. COVID-19 has highlighted the level of insecure employment practices and the exposure of its workforce and participants. In March, when the pandemic first hit hard in Victoria, many AEU members were stood down without pay or required to take annual leave, making them ineligible for JobSeeker. Then, soon after the JobKeeper wage subsidy was launched, the Morrison government changed the classification of NDIS payments, leaving many services unable to meet the limited eligibility criteria.
To make things worse, the NDIS Price Guide for 2020-21, released in July, has seen reduced funding of 5%–9% for most categories, apparently reflecting the Annual Price Review and the Fair Work Commission Annual Wage review. This is in stark contrast to last year, when the price guide saw many categories of funding increase, with a positive move towards appropriate services costs.
Following the royal commission into abuse in the disability sector – and the positive steps made via the Disability MEA and the disability registration programs – it seemed the sector was moving towards ensuring the high-quality services and skilled workforce that the growing sector needs. Instead work in the sector is becoming ever more insecure, with attempts to deskill and devalue this dedicated workforce, responsible for the education and wellbeing of some of the most vulnerable members of our communities.