COVID-19 Vaccine roll-out update

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People with disability, workers and supporters eligible under Phase 1a of the roll-out include:
• A person with disability living in residential accommodation (in settings with two or more people with disability only).
• A paid worker providing support to people living in residential accommodation with two or more people with disability.
The Department of Health has published a dedicated web page for people with disability. This page will be regularly updated as more details are confirmed.

The COVID-19 vaccine is free and voluntary.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has developed a collection of resources to help health professionals, providers and people receiving the vaccination in providing informed consent.

On 16 February, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for use in Australia.

Information about the roll-out is currently being developed into accessible formats such as Easy Read and Auslan and will be made available as soon as possible. Other stakeholder resources such as posters and social media content is also being developed.

Phase 1a: people with disability in residential accommodation
Commencing from Monday 22 February

A small number of sites across Australia have been identified by the Department of Health as the first locations to receive Phase 1a vaccinations. The Department of Health will contact these initial sites and work closely with the providers.

The Department of Health will continue to consult closely with key sector representatives to ensure the Phase 1a roll-out for people with disability is safe and fit-for-purpose.

For all providers (even if you have not been contacted yet) with people with disability or workers eligible for Phase 1a, we strongly recommend that you:
1. Start conversations to ensure everyone is informed about the priority roll-out and understands the vaccination program.
2. Review the ATAGI consent pack and start discussions with people with disability or substitute decision makers about consent as soon as possible. Additional resources will be available soon for people with disability to support consent.

COVID-19 Vaccines Implementation Plan for the Disability Sector

The Department of Health has developed an implementation plan for the disability sector in consultation with state and territory governments, key disability stakeholders and other Commonwealth departments and agencies.

Implementation plans have also been developed for Aged Care, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Australians.

These implementation plans will be published on the Department of Health website shortly.

FAQs from sector consultation

The Department of Health has provided the following questions and answers following sector consultation. These can be used to answer any questions you may receive from clients or to develop your own website and newsletter content.

Phase 1a

Is eligibility for Phase 1a limited to people who are National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants?

I live alone but my carer works in residential settings with more than two people. Am I eligible to receive the vaccine in Phase 1a?
No. People with disability who live in residential supported accommodation with two or more people will be eligible to receive the vaccine in Phase 1a.

Is it mandatory to receive a vaccine in Phase 1a if I am eligible?
No. The COVID-19 vaccine will be voluntary.

If I am eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Phase 1a but take a while to decide if I want to receive it, will I be able to receive the vaccine at a later stage?
Yes. Should an eligible individual decline the vaccine in Phase 1a, they will remain eligible to access the vaccination at a later date.

Is there a limit to the size of the residential setting included in Phase 1a?
Residential settings with two or more people with disability will be included in Phase 1a.

Will the Commonwealth or state and territory governments be contacting services/providers to schedule for vaccinations?
For the majority of areas, the Commonwealth will work with a contracted workforce provider to contact disability services and providers to schedule vaccinations in Phase 1a. There are some regions where State and Territory governments will manage this correspondence directly.

If I am eligible to receive the vaccine in Phase 1a but do not have an underlying medical condition identified by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), can I still receive the vaccine?
Yes. The underlying medical conditions identified by ATAGI are relevant for Phase 1b of the vaccine roll-out.

How will people with disability be identified or enrolled to receive the vaccine in Phase 1a?
The Department of Health is working with a number of stakeholders, including the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission (NDIS Commission), state and territory governments and other organisations to identify and reach out to people with disability. For Phase 1a, people with disability will be notified when it is their turn to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

Will staff who do not provide direct care in a residential setting be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Phase 1a?
Yes. Any paid staff who work in a supported residential setting with two or more people with disability will be eligible to receive the vaccine in Phase 1a.

Phase 1b

What is classified as an underlying condition?
ATAGI’s advice to Government on priority population groups for COVID-19 vaccination is available via the Commonwealth Department of Health’s website. These include, but are not limited to, immunocompromised, multiple comorbidities, chronic lung disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and severe obesity.

Is the list of underlying conditions final or will it be updated?
ATAGI is continually reviewing data and evidence for vaccines and may update its advice to Government as new information becomes available.

What if I am eligible to receive the vaccine in Phase 1b but am unable to go to a location to receive the vaccine?
This will be assessed on a case by case basis.

Can people under the age of 18 receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Phase 1b if they have an underlying medical condition?

What age group is classified as younger adults with an underlying medical condition in Phase 1b?
People aged 18 to 69 are classified as younger adults.

COVID-19 vaccines

Where can I access information on the COVID-19 vaccine?
Please visit the Department of Health vaccine website at Information on the site will be updated regularly as new information becomes available. Resources for people with disability will also be provided and updated.

Have certain vaccines been earmarked for people with disability?
No. A priority approach will be taken depending on what vaccine is registered and available first.

Can I use funds from my NDIS plan to cover the cost of the COVID-19 vaccine?
COVID-19 vaccines are free for everyone in Australia.

What is the timing between doses of the Pfizer vaccine?
Two doses will be required, administered at least 21 days apart.

Can I get the COVID-19 and the annual influenza (flu) vaccine?
Routine scheduling and giving a flu vaccine with a COVID-19 vaccine on the same day is not recommended. The preferred minimum interval between a dose of seasonal flu vaccine and a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is 14 days.

People should talk to their health care professional for more information.

Are there any indications that COVID-19 vaccines will not be suitable for people with disability?
All medicines, including vaccines, have risks and benefits. Usually, any side effects are mild and may only last a few days.

Through clinical trials, some of the temporary side effects reported for the COVID-19 vaccine are normal such as pain at the injection site, fever or muscle aches.

The person providing your vaccination will be provided further clinical information and training about the COVID-19 vaccines and pre-existing medical conditions. You can talk to the person providing the vaccination, your doctor or pharmacist, about your medical condition and about any potential risks.

Information on the ingredients of any vaccine will be available in the Consumer Medicines Information leaflet which will be made available on the Therapeutic Goods Administration website at using the search term ‘Consumer Medicines Information’.

Proof of vaccination

Can I refuse service from a support worker/carer if they have not been vaccinated?
People with disability have choice over who supports them. People with disability can ask the provider to make sure that the workers that they employ to support a person are vaccinated. If a worker does not wish to be vaccinated, the person’s provider will need to make alternate arrangements for the person with disability’s support, in close consultation with the person with disability. This may mean identifying another support worker.

I am an NDIS participant. Can my support worker refuse service if I have not received the COVID-19 vaccine?
No. COVID-19 vaccinations are not mandatory vaccinations. People have the right to decide whether they will be vaccinated or not. If a person chooses not to be vaccinated, the risk of infection can continue to be managed through the use of recommended infection control practices. If a provider or support worker refuses to continue to provide supports to you because you have not received the COVID-19 vaccine, it could be a breach of the NDIS Code of Conduct (NDIS Providers) and a complaint can be made to the NDIS Commission.

Vaccination appointment

Can I bring someone with me to my vaccination appointment?
Yes. People with disability can attend their vaccination appointment with whoever they feel most comfortable with. This could include a support worker, family member, carer or friend.

COVIDSafe practices will still be required to be observed including social distancing and masks if applicable depending on the location.

Informed consent

How do I provide informed consent?
The Australian Government is working with ATAGI to develop resources for informed consent. More information on informed consent, including consent forms, will be available soon.

How will consent be provided by people with disability who are unable to consent themselves?
Informed consent for each dose of the vaccination must be appropriately given and recorded on behalf of the person with disability who are unable to consent themselves. More information will be provided about this process.

COVID-19 Vaccine information for people with disability




Melanie RobertsonCOVID-19 Vaccine roll-out update
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Can You Refuse to Serve Someone Who Refuses to be COVID Safe?

Can You Refuse to Serve Someone Who Refuses to be COVID Safe?

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Customers refusing to wear masks while shopping in Victoria, where masks are now mandatory, have attracted a lot of media attention in recent weeks. has published a guide to the reasons businesses can refuse to serve customers, including safety, and the relevant aspects of anti-discrimination law. The guide is for all Australian businesses - not just businesses in Victoria.

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Where to Find the Latest COVID-19 Information

Where to Find the Latest COVID-19 Information

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ATSA encourages all members to regularly visit the NDIS Commission coronavirus (COVID-19) information page, available here.

This page contains links to updates, training, alerts, and resources for NDIS participants and providers. This information is to inform and support NDIS providers to continue to deliver quality and safe supports and services to NDIS participants.

Robyn SmartWhere to Find the Latest COVID-19 Information
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Low Cost COVID-19 Assistive Technology Changes

Low Cost COVID-19 Assistive Technology Changes

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The Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), the Hon Stuart Robert MP, has announced three changes to help NDIS participants during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Increased flexibility for low-cost assistive technology (AT)
  • New support line items for participants living in supported independent living (SIL) arrangements
  • Online access to the NDIS Access Request Form (ARF) and Supporting Evidence Form

Further detail on the low cost AT changes are outlined below:

Increased flexibility for low-cost AT

To ensure continuity in NDIS funded supports and services during the COVID-19 pandemic, the NDIA are temporarily broadening the flexible approach for low cost AT items.

Participants will be able to use their existing NDIS funding to purchase an item if all of the following criteria are met:

  • the AT will maintain existing funded NDIS supports like a program or therapy
  • the provider of supports has confirmed in writing that the device is necessary to continue supports and services while maintaining physical distancing requirements
  • the AT is the lowest specification that will maintain funded supports
  • the participant does not already have the item, another suitable item or access to the item
  • the AT has not been funded by another service system (such as education)
  • the AT or circumstances are not specifically excluded.

How will this work?

The NDIA are recommending participants work with their existing providers to discuss the best way to receive services and supports while maintaining physical distancing – this may include using available technology, developing exercise programs participants can do at home or borrowing equipment and keeping in touch over the phone.

  • Plan-managed or self-managed participants can purchase low cost AT items from any provider.
  • Agency-managed participants can purchase these from any registered NDIS provider. A common approach is for therapy providers to buy the AT item for the participant.

How will this relate to funding?

Not all participants have funding available in core budgets for consumables. There will be a system update 9 May 2020 to increase flexible access in plans.

Participants who only have funding in their capacity building budget will be able to use a special line item to enable use of this new flexible approach (more details on this later in the week).

If a specific item is required to maintain supports, written evidence in the form of a letter/email from the participant’s existing provider will be required to support this purchase.

How will payments be claimed?

Providers, plan managers and self-managing participants need to attach this letter to claim payment. The letter/email should include:

  • the participant’s name and NDIS number;
  • that delivery of current support in the plan has been significantly hindered due to physical distancing restrictions (or other element of COVID-19) and that alternate solutions to maintain delivery/outcome have been considered, but not fully addressed the limitations;
  • how the device is necessary to maintain supports and services while maintaining physical distancing requirements;
  • the specific technologies and associated accessories required, and that these represent the lowest specification capable of delivering the benefit; and
  • that the participant is able to use the device/s to access the support.

Before the participant (or nominee) or provider makes a claim for the selected item, the participant should be sure that:

  • the participant does not already have the item, another suitable item or access to the item, and
  • that a similar or suitable item has not been funded by another service system (such as education), and
  • that the item or circumstances are not specifically excluded under this policy.

When will this take effect?

The arrangement will be in place until September 2020, with a review at the end of June 2020.

To be really clear, this policy does not involve provision of extra NDIS funding into a participant’s plan, but rather flexibility to use existing funding.

Where to find more information

Latest news on NDIA initiatives to support providers and participants during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic can be found on the news and events page of the NDIS website.

More information is also available on the Assistive Technology page of the NDIS website.

Robyn SmartLow Cost COVID-19 Assistive Technology Changes
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New Government Plan to Support People with Disability

New Government Plan to Support People with Disability

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The Australian Government Department of Health has released a new plan that will help support people with disability throughout COVID-19.

The Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus guides the Australian health sector response. This management and operational plan focus on people with disability.

You can download and read the plan here.

The Plan has been developed for people of all ages with disability, their families, carers, support workers and the disability and health care sectors. It will provide high-level guidance on a range of factors that need to be considered in managing and preventing the transmission of COVID-19 for people with disability. The Plan will be informed by a risk-based approach, prioritising individuals whose disability, current health status and setting, places them at significant risk of adverse outcomes related to COVID-19.

The Plan will be a living document and will be reviewed periodically, in line with the Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Coronavirus. As new evidence and recommendations for how to manage the COVID-19 pandemic emerge, particularly in relation to disability, the Plan will be updated accordingly.

Robyn SmartNew Government Plan to Support People with Disability
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Caring For Your Mental Health

Caring For Your Mental Health

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We are in very unfamiliar times with the economic fabric of our society transforming before our eyes. Some things that we cherished and were familiar with are undergoing profound change and loss. The coronavirus COVID-19 is impacting people in varying ways that we could not have imagined just months ago. Sadly, this is resulting in some people feeling afraid, worried, anxious and overwhelmed. We need to recognise that this is a natural and very understandable response to what is quickly evolving before us.   

As a business leader dealing with this set of circumstances you are not immune to feeling the pressure, so do not forget that you need to take care of your health and look out for the symptoms and act. I liken it to the safety warning you receive about oxygen masks when flying, “fit it first before you assist others”. Mental health management is much the same - you need to ensure you take care of yourself as others are relying on your leadership in these trying times.

Just remember that you’re not alone and do not be slow in asking for help -  your mental health and wellbeing is very important - not just for you but for those close to you.

If you need to reach out, here are some support organisations that can help:

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636

LifeLine: 13 11 14 / 0477 13 11 14 or evening crisis chat

Black Dog Institute

Robyn SmartCaring For Your Mental Health
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Are AT Businesses an Essential Service?

Are AT Businesses an Essential Service?

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With the fast-changing circumstances along with the mixed messages that were coming through about the possible lockdown of non-essential services, ATSA wrote early this week to all 15 Disability and Health Ministers across the country last night to ensure that the supply of AT remains on the agenda as an essential service.

Each state has differing approaches within their legislations regarding what is an essential service and what is not,  e.g. it is clear in NSW where the support of medical devices is listed within the legislation, whereas in Victoria it will be determined at the time.

Regardless of this, ATSA strongly recommends that you plan with the expectation that the supply of AT will be an essential service in the event of a “lockdown”. ATSA was also in discussion with the NDIA last night on the fast unfolding situation - they are also working to ensure the AT sector is fully supported and considered as an essential service.

The current situation at the time of writing is that only activities that have been listed are to cease operation. The supply of goods and services is not listed, therefore, AT suppliers need to continue to operate.

In the letter to the Ministers, ATSA has requested that the industry be provided with support and consideration for the following:
Logistic support cost relief due to the falling dollar and the impact that the COVID-19 is having on the cost of doing business.

Access to PPE
Some states have elected to close their borders - it is important that you let me know if you have any issues in shipping or supplying stock or if you are having issues in obtaining PPE. In addition, if you are having difficulties in sourcing suppliers from overseas, or in accessing your orders through customs.

If there is any interest for ATSA to open discussion with Government about Telehealth to support your clients with their AT, please contact us. With respect to your supply contracts with Government or others, ATSA highly recommends that you contact them to discuss cost implications due to the fall in the Australian dollar now. If you are having difficulties in any of these areas please also get in touch.
Robyn SmartAre AT Businesses an Essential Service?
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Important Information for AT Providers About COVID-19

Important Information for AT Providers About COVID-19

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The impact of COVID-19 on society is growing along with constant daily changes to how we live our lives and carry out business. ATSA is actively working with the NDIA, NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission and the TGA to ensure that as an industry we are as well-equipped as possible to work through this. 

The Australian Government is updating their information daily and will be a reliable source, particularly the Department of Health webpage. If a notice that is AT-specific comes to hand this will be circulated to you as necessary.

If you have a question that you cannot find the answer to, please email ATSA for assistance. We have a number of government connections that we can access to assist you, especially if you have a concern.


ATSA has been working with ARATA, the National Assistive Technology Alliance (NATA) and with the NDIA, to identify what help our industry requires from the Government to ensure it can continue to “business as usual” in the current climate.

One of the main points raised to date is access to PPE. Under the current set of circumstances, not all providers of supports are viewed as “medical” support workers which is preventing supply and support of AT.


A central point of information is needed for the industry and participants to allow a mutual understanding of what actions are currently in place and what they can do. We understand that some of the information available is confusing or hard to find, which we have been asked quite often.

Here is some information we have identified:

The key is to establish workplace policies that ensure all staff understand their duty to take reasonable care for their own health, as well as those around them. Practising good hygiene has been the strongest recommendation by our Government, which includes:

  • Washing their hands often, with soap and water, or carrying hand sanitiser and using it as needed.
  • Practise social isolation, i.e. 1.5m from others.
  • Covering their mouth when coughing or sneezing, but not using their hands to do so.
  • Seeing a health care professional if they start to feel unwell.
  • If unwell, avoiding contact with others (including shaking hands or other touching, such as hugging).


If you are a registered provider of supports with the NDIS Quality Safeguards Commission (NDIS QSC), it is a condition of your registration to notify the NDIS QSC of certain changes and events – especially those which substantially affect your ability to provide the supports and services that your business is registered to provide. For example delayed shipping for spare parts, minimal staff due to illness or limited PPE access.

Robyn SmartImportant Information for AT Providers About COVID-19
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Government Assistance Packages for AT Businesses

Government Assistance Packages for AT Businesses

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Information on Government assistance to businesses impacted by COVID-19 from Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business.

Here are the issued the following links to access assistance from the Government

The main point of information on the available assistance can be found here.

Here are some other sites that may be of interest or assistance to you

Here are some of the non-business links that you may wish to let your clients know about

Robyn SmartGovernment Assistance Packages for AT Businesses
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How to Communicate to Customers About COVID-19

How to Communicate to Customers About COVID-19

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How you communicate with your customers is so important at a time of heightened anxiety even more so.

It has been brought to ATSA’s attention that some AT businesses have been posting information on their response to the COVID19 that has been less than ideal. This is despite the best intentions to create a safe environment for both their customers and staff. However, in the main, most are managing this matter well which I applaud.

This is a fast-changing environment and it will be difficult for many businesses just to keep up. ATSA encourages that you keep your messages short and direct your customers/clients to the relevant Government websites. In our sector these are;

Here is a good example from Wicked Wheelchairs, which I like to pass on my thanks and appreciation to Jaime Thomson, General Manager for permission to share this to the industry.

Advice to Customers (template)

Download this template that can be personalised for your customers.

Please contact ATSA if you have any queries.

David Sinclair
Executive Officer

Robyn SmartHow to Communicate to Customers About COVID-19
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