MEDIA RELEASE: Expensive, isolating, lonely: new survey reveals experiences of people with disability during COVID-19

5 June 2020

A new survey, released today by peak disability rights organisation, People with Disability Australia (PWDA), reveals how difficult COVID-19 has been for many people with disability across Australia.

“Over 90% of people with disability said they had faced increased expenses due to COVID-19,” said El Gibbs, Director, Media and Communications, PWDA.

“People with disability had higher expenses for food and groceries (58%), healthcare (31%), internet and phone (26%) and sanitising and hygiene equipment (20%).”

“Many people with disability already live in poverty and rely on income support, such as the Disability Support Pension (DSP). But those on the DSP were not eligible for the coronavirus supplement that would have gone some way towards alleviating these increased costs,” said Ms Gibbs.

Over 200 people responded to the survey, 88% of them people with disability. Survey respondents were from all states and territories, and represented a variety of age groups. The survey was conducted in May 2020.

“One key issue for many people with disability during the COVID-19 pandemic has been how we can continue the essential supports we need to live our lives,” said Ms Gibbs.

“Our survey showed that both NDIS and non-NDIS supports were affected by the pandemic, with over 40% of people with disability reporting less support.”

“We are pleased to see the rapid move to using telehealth facilities, and our survey shows that many people with disability have accessed healthcare in this way,” said Ms Gibbs.

“It is vital that telehealth remains an option for people with disability into the future.”

PWDA, alongside over 70 other disability advocacy organisations, raised these issues in an open letter to the National Cabinet, calling for specific and targeted measures from all levels of Australian Governments to proactively protect and support people with disability, their families, carers and support persons from the impact of COVID-19.

“There is much to learn from the survey, and the impacts of COVID-19 so far. We support the public health measures put in place to address COVID-19. At the same time, we must make absolutely sure that these measures don’t have adverse impacts on people with disability,” said Ms Gibbs.”

Read the full report.