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Tammy Milne details COVID-19 experience to Disability Royal Commission

A woman with a disability spent four days without a support worker during the height of the coronavirus lockdown in North-West Tasmania, the Disability Royal Commission has heard.

The 55-year-old was also unable to get any information on emergency carers when she called a government helpline.

"The service was so unhelpful it could have been automated," Tammy Milne said in her submission.

Mrs Milne is unable to use her legs and relies on a support worker six days a week to prepare meals and provide assistance where needed.

She is a prominent disability advocate and former Devonport councillor and shared her experiences of the pandemic on the national stage.

Mrs Milne said one Friday afternoon her carer did not turn up and she was told hours later they had been exposed to COVID-19.

She was able to get interim help from friends, however, she said she was told the support worker had tested negative on Sunday even though they knew on Saturday.

"There was a lot of unnecessary stress about whether my husband and I had been exposed to the virus...," she wrote.

"This also raised the issue of the lack of communication from the provider. There was no backfill of a worker so no one was able to provide support to me for four days. That put me and my husband in a potentially dangerous situation."

Mrs Milne told the commission it seemed as if her service provider had not considered what would happen if a support worker contracted COVID-19.

"Who would I have contacted? Where would I have found another support worker? I felt that the risks were not mitigated against by the provider or the government," she wrote.

"I would like to know what guidelines were provided to the service providers in terms of operating during the pandemic. There seems to be a real disconnect between the government, the service providers and the people they are meant to be looking after."

Mrs Milne also raised concerns about the Tasmanian government's website, which she said was "very difficult to navigate" and lacked information in "clear English".

"The website should have been more interactive, particularly considering that literacy rates in the North-West of Tasmania are low, with around fifty per cent of our population being functionally illiterate," she said.

She had similar concerns about the "too high ended" information in Premier Peter Gutwein's daily press briefings, however, she did welcome the presence of Auslan interpreters.

Mrs Milne said the pandemic overall "has really illustrated to me the lack of understanding in the community of what people with disability go through" and the "absolutely entrenched" ableism in the community.

The Disability Royal Commission was established in April 2019 in response to community concern about widespread reports of violence, neglect, abuse and exploitation of people with disability.

It is expected to deliver a final report along with the recommendation for reform to the federal government in April 2022.

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