The NSW bushfires have been (and continue to be) one of the biggest tragedies to ever hit our beautiful country of Australia.
People with disabilities are particularly vulnerable, so we wanted to share the resources that Disability Services Consulting has compiled to help prepare for and mitigate the effects of this bushfire season.
This article was originally published on the Disability Services Consulting Page, and we are copying it for your convenience below:
NSW has a program to assist people with disability and elderly residents to get their homes ready for bushfire season. Funding is available for domestic support to clear gutters, thin vegetation at home, remove leaf and tree debris, trim branches and mow grass.
NDIS participants in other states and territories may be able to use their NDIS funding for these purposes, and for support developing an emergency plan.
The Red Cross has a great resource for supporting people to develop emergency plans.
PRIORITY NDIS PLAN REVIEWS
The NDIA can escalate any enquiries from people affected by the bushfires. They also have the authority to make changes to plans quickly without going through the usual, tedious plan review process.
Providers who deliver essential services (including support coordination) are encouraged to continue providing those services and making claims. However, if necessary, you should also assist the person to contact the NDIA and arrange an urgent plan review. Provider can also contact the NDIA through the call centre (1800 800 110) or by email (email@example.com) with “Natural Disaster” in the subject line.
REPLACING OR REPAIRING ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY
If someone requires urgent assistive technology repairs but does not have the funding in their plan, then they can contact the call centre (1800 800 110). The call centre can give them an authorisation number which should allow them to access emergency repairs and equipment.
Repairs are considered “urgent” if they are for equipment that the person uses for safety, mobility, communication, or activities of daily living. Repairing equipment damaged in bushfires is classified as urgent. People can also get funding for short-term equipment loans.
If a repair is required outside of the contact centre’s open hours, then providers should do what is necessary to make the equipment safe and useable or loan out an alternative. They should then contact the NDIA to get approval for further repairs during the next business day. You can read more about the process for out of office hours repairs here.
Providers who deliver essential services (including support coordination) are encouraged to continue providing those services and making claims. However, if necessary, you should also assist the person to contact the NDIA and arrange an urgent plan review. Providers can also contact the NDIA through the call centre (1800 800 110) or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with “Natural Disaster” in the subject line. The NDIA has acknowledged that there can be an extra cost involved in supporting people who are affected by the bushfires, so (hopefully) getting more funding made available should be a smooth process.
People who have been displaced by the fires and need a place to stay for themselves or animals can contact Find A Bed Australia. You can also register with them if you would like to volunteer a spare bed or some room in your house.
Accessible Accommodation has launched a Facebook group to connect people to accommodation that meets their accessibility needs. You can find the group here.
A number of organisations have made accessible resources for people with disabilities affected by the fires. These are the ones we have found, but please contact us if there are any you think we should add to the list.
CFA Victoria has developed an Easy Read resource on bushfires.
Early Connections has developed a bushfire social story for children.
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
Two Way Street has developed Aided Language Displays for children and adults who may find these resources useful to talk about what’s happening.
IDEAS Australia has a wonderful page dedicated to bushfire crisis information. They also have a national disability information service that you can contact on 1800 029 904.
Physical Disability Council of NSW has developed a website dedicated to supporting people with disability to understand natural disasters and put in place an emergency plan.
Youth Affairs Council Victoria has created a list of bushfire resources for Victorians with a disability.
There are various Centrelink payments that can be made available to people affected by the bushfires.
The Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment (AGDRP), is for people who have had their homes lost or damaged, been seriously injured, or are an immediate family member of someone who has lost their life. It is not means tested. The payment is $1000 for each adult and $400 for each child.
The Disaster Recovery Allowance (DRA) is available for people whose income has been affected as a result of the fires.
People who might be eligible for any of these payments should contact Centrelink on 180 22 66, between Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, and 8am to 5pm on weekends. This is a line dedicated to supporting people who have been affected by natural disasters, so hopefully the hold times will be shorter than Centrelink’s average!
Smoke from the bushfires is particularly dangerous for people with heart or lung conditions, young children, people over 65 and pregnant women. On smoky days, people are encouraged not to go outside unless they have to, and those who have air conditioning should set it to “re-circulate.”
Anyone experiencing chest tightness or breathing difficulties should call triple 000 straight away.
All states and territories have websites dedicated to monitoring air quality. You can find them on the Disability Services Consulting Page.
People with disability or medical conditions can be particularly impacted by the extreme heat. And the heat this summer has definitely been extreme. The Victorian government has developed this great resource on How to Cope and Stay Safe In Extreme Heat. It includes information on coping with the heat, helping others and recognising the signs of heat related illness. It is available in multiple different languages. They have also produced this video for people with pre-existing medical conditions:
The Federal government has announced some new mental health services that will be available for people affected by the bushfires. Some of the services include:
10 immediate counselling sessions are available to people affected by the bushfires. These sessions will be offered at recovery centre, Service Australia centres and local mental health centres in fire affected regions.
Anyone affected by the bushfires will be eligible for rebates for 10 psychological therapy sessions (in addition to the 10 already available through Medicare).
Teletherapy sessions will be available to people in rural and remote locations who don’t have easy access to mental health professionals.
It is promised that these services will be available from the end of the week, and will be accessible for the next 2 years. However, it is not clear if by end of the week they mean Friday (January 17th) or Sunday (January 19th). There is also funding that has been made available to support frontline responders and young people. More information can be found here.
The Victorian government is allowing people from bushfire affected regions to access medicines from a pharmacist without a prescription. The pharmacist has to be satisfied that there is a therapeutic benefit and that obtaining a prescription would be impractical. This is great news for people with long term medical conditions who have lost their prescriptions in the fires. You can read more here.
Some LAC and NDIA offices have been forced to close due to the fires. You can find a list of the offices that are currently closed here.
IN AN EMERGENCY
The NDIS can only provide additional support for people with disability after they are out of immediate danger. In an emergency dial 000 or teletype 106.
CFA Victoria advises people with a physical disability, people who are elderly and people who have difficulty thinking or acting quickly under stress to leave early when their area is classified as Severe, Extreme or Code Red.
If you are looking for support for yourself, your client or your family member, or if you have any questions at all, please reach out to our friendly team!
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