National Disability Insurance Scheme participants in New South Wales and Victoria who rely on face-to-face supports will now be able to use NDIS funding to buy masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE), the federal government has announced.

NDIS Minister Stuart Robert said on Wednesday these temporary changes would ensure at-risk participants were supported to access PPE while receiving disability care.

“Unfortunately we’ve seen in recent weeks that our battle with COVID-19 is far from over,” Robert said.

“As a result, we have put in place additional temporary measures so participants living in Victoria and New South Wales, who have face-to-face assisted daily living supports can flexibly use their existing NDIS funds to cover the cost of the PPE they need to keep themselves safe, including face masks.

“We know that participants who receive face-to-face supports may be at higher risk of transmission, with daily support from their workers regularly involving close physical contact.”

Under the changes, NDIS participants who rely on daily face-to-face supports will be able to use an existing support item (Low Cost Disability-Related Health Consumables) to claim on the cost of PPE for when their worker is with them.

This move has been welcomed by disability advocates, who had been critical of the NDIS in recent days over a lack of clarity around when funding can be used to buy masks.