AHPPC notes mandating of vaccination for disability support workers providing services and supports to people with disability provides an important protection for people with disability during this emergency.
AHPPC recommends mandatory vaccinations for disability workers as a condition of work or entry to the recipient’s accommodation if they are providing intensive supports to National Disability Insurance Scheme participants. Further, AHPPC recommends the first dose of a TGA approved COVID-19 vaccine by 30 November 2021 and a second dose by 31 December 2021. AHPPC also recognises that some jurisdictions may introduce requirements that commence earlier or go beyond arrangements outlined in this statement. The implementation of these requirements may also differ between jurisdictions depending on their public health legislation.
AHPPC also recommends that all jurisdictions accept a national definition of disability support worker and intensive supports, and that they use these in their relevant public health orders to ensure national consistency.
Disability support workers are defined as being: (a) a person who is providing intensive disability support services to (b) persons with disability by (c) a person engaged by a registered NDIS provider or a state or territory government.
Intensive supports are defined as:
- assistance with daily life tasks in a group or shared living environment
- group and centre based activities that assist people with disability to access community, social and recreational activities in groups involving skilled and experienced support staff
- specialist supported employment which assist people with disability who have high support needs to maintain work in a social enterprise for example, sometimes referred to as Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs)
- assistance with daily personal activities - assistance with, or supervision of, personal tasks of daily life to develop skills of the participant to live as autonomously as possible
- community nursing care to respond to the disability related health needs of a participant where that care is not the usual responsibility of the health system.
- therapeutic supports to facilitate functional improvement aimed at adjustment, adaption, and building capacity for community participation.
These classes of support are defined under the NDIS (Provider Registration and Practice Standards) Rules 2018. In the NDIS these are classes which relate to registered providers of supports only.
AHPPC recommends that mandatory vaccination apply for disability support workers that meet the definitions above regardless of the setting they work in or are entering.
AHPPC notes that compliance with a mandate in state or territory disability settings would be regulated through existing arrangements.
For supports provided under the NDIS, provider compliance would be monitored by the NDIS Commission and state and territory governments. Registered NDIS providers already have an obligation to comply with the laws of the state or territory within which they operate.
In order for the NDIS Commission to monitor compliance, public health orders must place an obligation on:
- the disability support worker to be vaccinated and to inform their employer of their vaccination status, if requested.
- the NDIS provider to ensure that they allow only people who have been vaccinated to work with people with disability or enter the recipient’s accommodation.
- the NDIS provider to keep records of their having sighted evidence of, or verified, workers’ vaccination status.
Public health orders would also need to make clear that the provider’s obligation under the orders apply not just in relation to workers they employ, but also to workers they engage in other ways or whose services are made available to the provider by a personnel provider.
Compliance monitoring would primarily occur through provider reporting, and obligations for the maintenance of records that can be reviewed by the jurisdictions and the NDIS Commission.
It is recommended that exemptions are limited and consistent with the national framework endorsed by AHPPC for residential aged care workers.
- Medical exemptions will be in line with the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) clinical guidance on COVID-19 vaccine in Australia in 2021.
- Selected medical practitioners can notify the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) of an individual who has a vaccine exemption due to medical contraindications or natural immunity which will be displayed on an individual’s Immunisation History Statement (IHS).
- This includes permanent vaccine exemption or temporary vaccine exemption until a specified date due to acute major illness, significant immunocompromise of short duration and recognised overseas vaccination.
- Temporary exemptions may apply where there is a demonstrated issue with access and supply or where compliance with the mandatory vaccination requirements will undermine the quality of care for clients.
- Exemptions on religious, political, and personal grounds are not an allowable exemption.
Disability support workers will need to provide evidence to their employer that a medical exemption has been granted.
Read previous statements from the AHPPC.