COVID-19: A message to People with Disability
from Victoria’s Public Advocate, Colleen Pearce
25 March 2020
Like many aspects of our society, the current COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affects people with disability.
I want to reassure all Victorians, including our clients under guardianship, those in 24-hour residential care, attending police stations undergoing interviews or in prison at Governors’ disciplinary hearings, that the Office of the Public Advocate (OPA) is continuing to pursue its role to put you first.
For the time being, in order to protect the health of at-risk people in the community including OPA clients, staff and volunteers, I have suspended visits by staff and volunteers to hospitals, residential facilities, prisons and detention facilities. These closed environments place people with disability at particular risk. Any outbreak in such facilities could be devastating to these people and have a significant flow-on effect to our community.
While most of our staff have moved to working from home, we are exploring and implementing new and innovative ways of doing our work to ensure we can safely and effectively fulfil our primary mission of safeguarding the rights and interests of people with disability, and working to eliminate abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability.
We are working hard to ensure that critical issues are dealt with appropriately. We remain open for business and are available via our usual telephone, email, and website.
At a time of high stress such as this, the vulnerabilities of people with a disability become an even more concerning reality.
As a community, we must do our best to reduce the risks of spreading COVID-19 and prevent overloading our healthcare systems. We need to care for one another, remember those who are the most vulnerable, treat others with humanity, dignity and respect, and reach out in whatever safe way we can.
In line with my ongoing responsibilities, I will continue to advocate for people with disability and remain committed to the advancement of their rights in what is an unprecedented time of great uncertainty.