Community & disability services newsletter

Posted on
May 14, 2020
Social Community and Disability Sector

Your fortnightly union update

Did you catch us on the local news last week?

We fronted the media along with HACSU member and Nexus worker Scott Wheatley to talk about the new UNSW report highlighting how the disability sector is being ignored during the COVID-19 crisis, and the coverage appeared on ABC, WINNews and SevenNews.

Scott explained how it’s often impossible to maintain social distancing while supporting people with a disability and why governments should recognise this work and the risks for both clients and workers.

Thank you to Nexus for supporting us in this, and to CEO Mark Jessop for explaining that a lot of employers want to support their workforce and outlining ongoing concerns about access to PPE.

We also want to thank Anne Blackwell who let us into her house to highlight these issues - we hear Anne is enjoying her new celebrity status from the news coverage she received.

We'll continue to highlight the need for disability workers to be recognised during this crisis, and will continue to fight for: 

•  An incentive payment for workers, similar to the one for aged care workers

•  A paid COVID Care allowance for workers supporting someone with COVID-19

•  Paid leave when workers are forced to self-isolate

•  For disability to be prioritised along with public health and aged for access to personal protective equipment

So far, the following employers in Tasmania have signed up to support the campaign:  

•  Nexus

•  Langford Support Services

•  LiVe

•  Oak Possability

•  Leap

We congratulate these leading organisations for standing up for the disability services industry, the people it supports and the workers who provide that support, but let's hope more providers come on board and support the industry - many other employers on the mainland are also signed up.

If your employer is on board, please congratulate them – and if they’re not, please encourage them to join in!


COVID Care allowance FWC update

Last week when National Disability Services (NDS), the disability employers’ peak body, back-flipped and withdrew its support for the COVID Care allowance - this is a major setback as unions and NDS had been working cooperatively on this.

It’s absolutely reasonable that workers required to support a client with COVID-19 should be paid a $4.94 an hour allowance, given the increased responsibilities and requirements this situation would present.

NDS have said that they’ve back flipped because the federal government had not committed to funding this allowance, although the government has already committed to fund providers with $1200 a day to support a client who has COVID-19, and this allowance would only cost employers $118.84 for 24-hour one-on-one support.

We'd welcome extra funding beyond the $1200 a day but we believe there's already additional funding for employers to agree to pay workers this allowance, and many employers have already agreed to pay it no matter what the outcome of the Fair Work Commission process is.

HACSU is writing to all Tasmanian disability services providers asking them to commit to paying the allowance, if the situation should arise, and we'll update members once we have responses from employers.


Assisting disability workers

We recently helped a disability support worker recover nearly $10,000 in underpaid wages.

After getting a call from a member concerned about their pay while working at a previous employer, we worked with them to look at a sample of their payslips to show there was a high chance their pay had been processed incorrectly.

The old employer had refused to provide them with a breakdown of their hours, but we requested a full audit on their pay and it was found that they had been underpaid just shy of $10,000 over the last 12 months.

This was more than the member expected and it’s an excellent example of why you should always check your payslips.

Know your rights! If you’re ever unsure, call HACSU.


You should always feel safe at work

Unfortunately, unsafe incidents can happen in any setting for community and disability services workers.

Often there is the safety net of being able to call on colleagues for help, but that's not there when working in a home with a client in a one-on-one situation.

Many workers who do individual support say that due to the high needs of some of their clients, specifically around major behavioural issues, they often feel very much alone and unsafe.

Often, staff are told that clients have the choice to roam where they want due to avoiding restrictive practices, so workers are left without locks or safety areas to lock themselves away in to call for help or wait for a client’s behaviour to ease.

Clients’ rights are extremely important and they should always be protected and feel safe, but support workers' rights are just as important, and they should be provided with a secure workplace so they can feel safe, too.

If you don’t feel safe in your workplace, that needs to be raised with your employer. If you give us a call, we can talk about your options.


COVID-19 is not an excuse to be working short

We’ve heard from workers across several employers that short staffing is becoming a regular occurrence and, in some cases, there’s only been one support worker to three clients who all require a high level of support.

The excuse? The organisation couldn’t get staff because of COVID-19.

The reasons were things like self-isolation, scheduled annual leave, non-COVID sick leave and staff staying at home to look after family, and some organisations have stopped staff working across multiple employers which has caused staffing issues too.

These might sound like valid reasons but in reality most of these are foreseeable issues, and the bottom line is that employers are funded to provide clients with the level of support required in their plans and clients deserve what providers are being paid to deliver to them.

Some of the issues are down to casualisation of the disability workforce and that many support workers have to work across multiple organisations to get enough work to survive.

Short staffing puts the client in an unsafe environment and leaves the worker in an unsafe workplace.

It shouldn’t happen - but if this is happening in your workplace, and your employer is doing nothing about it, you need to contact HACSU.

For more information about this or any other industrial matter, members should contact HACSUassist on 1300 880 032 or email or complete our online contact form

Social Community and Disability Sector