At a time when we are all so isolated and can’t make the usual face-to-face visits, it’s more important than ever to reach out to people with disability and listen to what they have to say, the Public Advocate, Colleen Pearce, said.
"For this reason, I have sent all residents living in Disability Service facilities in Victoria an Easy Read letter, explaining why Community Visitors are not making face-to-face visits now, how they can speak to a Community Visitor by phone, and invited them to share their experiences via a feedback form. Each letter included a reply-paid envelope to make it as easy as possible for people to contact OPA," Dr Pearce said.
Community Visitor face-to-face visits were suspended on 23 March 2020 in line with the Chief Health Officer directions and in order to protect residents, volunteers and staff from COVID-19. Since then, Community Visitors have been making telephone visits and, in some cases, video visits.
"A number of residents have already sent back their feedback form, and I am keen to encourage more to do so. If you work in a disability organisation, please check whether your clients had completed the feedback form and, where possible, to support them to do so."
For the most part, residents' concerns are the same as ours, Dr Pearce said.
"They miss going out and doing the activities they enjoy. Some have taken the time to say they are being treated well but, sadly, there are also some allegations of abuse. Some have asked for someone to contact them, and our Community Visitors and staff are pleased to do this.
"There is always an added layer of concern when you have a disability. They are worried about what will happen if the virus comes to their house as it is impossible to physically distance, and they are worried about who will look after them if their carer becomes ill."