Ensuring People with Disability are protected
Thursday, 22 June 2017
Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan—Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services) (13:00): I rise today to speak on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment (Quality and Safeguards Commission and Other Measures) Bill 2017. As the previous speaker said, this is important legislation. The NDIS is the biggest reform of disability services in Australia's history. It is also a reform that will be life-changing for so many Australians with disability, their carers and their families. At full scheme, approximately 460,000 people living with permanent and significant disability will have individually tailored and funded packages. The scheme provides participants with the support they need to undertake everyday activities, so they can participate in their communities and in social and economic life. The NDIS is not just transforming the lives of participants; it also has opportunities and challenges for providers. As assistant minister, I have had discussions with many providers and stakeholders as I travel throughout Australia, and I am conscious of the impact of such a large reform.
The scheme also increases demand for tens of thousands of new jobs across Australia, creating opportunities for workers and the businesses that will employ them. Given the coalition's 2017 budget focus on more and better-paying jobs, the disability employment sector presents a real opportunity for growth. With a developing market and such a large increase in workers, we need to ensure there is sound regulation underpinning the NDIS to ensure the scheme can achieve everything it is designed to deliver for people with disability and their families. The Quality and Safeguards Commission and the supporting framework will work to ensure that supports and services are delivered safely and to a high standard for participants. We have heard the reports over the past few weeks of a gentleman with physical and intellectual disability being dragged along the carpet by staff members at his group home, and receiving second-degree burns. The incident was never reported. Mr Deputy Speaker, can I say that this is simply not good enough. Under the Quality and Safeguards Commission, providers will be required to report incidents of abuse and neglect. The commission will ensure that the provider takes appropriate action with respect to individuals they support and makes the required changes to prevent these sorts of incidents ever happening again.
This bill will see the establishment of a commission that will replace the various quality and safeguard arrangements currently operating in each state and territory. It will bring together the different functions—complaints, reportable incidents, provider registration—into one organisation to deliver effective regulatory intervention and integration. This bill puts into effect the NDIS quality and safeguards framework which has been developed through extensive stakeholder consultations across three years, and reflects the commitment of all governments to address the weaknesses in the current safeguarding arrangements. We have had extensive consultation from all stakeholders to make sure that we get this bill right. For participants, this means greater protection and prevention from unsafe or poor supports or services. Recent public inquiries and reviews have highlighted the importance of a strong regulatory framework, particularly for people in residential settings, and this is what the commission will provide. For NDIS participants, the establishment of the commission will mean the quality of registered providers delivering services and supports to participants will be monitored. It will also mean the reduction, and hopefully the elimination, of practices or interventions that restrict the rights or freedom of movement of a person with disability. To balance this, the commission will also promote strategies to reduce challenging behaviours.
The commission will ensure that registered NDIS providers have appropriate complaint and incident management systems, and this will be supported by the commission's own complaints mechanism to receive, manage and respond to complaints regarding NDIS providers and workers.
Establishment of an independent commission will support market growth by providing a national accreditation process for providers. This means providers will have a single registration point at full scheme regardless of the number of jurisdictions in which they operate, thereby reducing duplication and providing national consistency. The regulatory requirements for workers and providers will be risk based, dependent on the type of services and supports they provide. Higher-risk supports and services will have stricter regulatory requirements. Providers will also need to comply with the NDIS Code of Conduct regardless of whether they are registered or not. The code will reflect the National Standards for Disability Services and the National Standards in Mental Health Services together with the objectives of the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Framework.
For registered providers, there will be NDIS practice standards to be met for the supports and services they provide. This means an overall reduction in red tape for providers, something I am focused on and consider very important, but it still gives the right balance between providing protections for NDIS participants and not restricting their capacity to exercise choice and control. The commission will monitor the NDIS market for emerging risks, including unplanned provider exits. It will identify trends in provider practice which may contribute to provider failure or indicate issues with the quality or safety of supports. Monitoring changes to the market will be underpinned by information gathering and sharing provisions across the commission and with other regulators, such as state and territory governments, who will be responsible for worker screening for the NDIS.
I support the extensive compliance and enforcement powers that this bill gives the commission to ensure our most vulnerable participants are protected. The bill introduces an NDIS code of conduct for all providers and workers delivering services under the NDIS and actively ensures that restrictive practices are only used as a last resort, and only when authorised by the state or territory in which the participant lives.
Protecting our most vulnerable people must be our priority. However, we need to do this in a cohesive way so it does not unnecessarily constrain the growth of the market or impose unnecessary levels of accreditation or training for workers as a gut reaction to recent inquiries. We need to ensure that the level of training and accreditation is fit for purpose. As we heard yesterday from the young carers, their 12, 15 or 20 years experience as a carer for family or a relative often makes them much more equipped than someone with a 2½-week course or accreditation. We must acknowledge the work and experience gained by young carers in the support they give to their family members. We also need to ensure the commission has the appropriate authority and investigative powers to undertake their role without an administrative framework that prevents them from fulfilling this role. As with any organisation of this type, they will report to the minister and respond to issues raised.
The commission will complement the role of the NDIA and, together, they will have overall responsibility for NDIS participants and the provider market. This will invest $209 million over four years to implement comprehensive safeguards for NDIS participants, which further supports them in exercising choice and control over who delivers their supports and services. This is yet a further commitment by the coalition government to a fully funded NDIS that ensures certainty for Australians living with permanent and significant disability, their carers and their families.
I also support the amendments to the NDIS Act that arose from the independent review of how the act operated. The review identified areas where greater clarification could be provided without altering the design or eligibility of the scheme. These changes will help deliver an NDIS that is for all Australians, and include strengthening the act to include stronger references to carers; providing a clearer definition of information linkages and capacity building, which expands the general supports which can be provided; and addressing inadequacies of the legislation, such as enabling the CEO to gather information about prospective participants to help the transition into the NDIS.
The passage of this bill is crucial to providing the necessary safeguard for NDIS participants and their families and to allowing the NDIS to be delivered effectively.
This bill ensures that services are delivered to a minimum standard and, where this does not occur, there is a clear process to address these issues. This bill also gives greater recognition to carers and the important role they play. As I often mention, I appreciate the opportunity to meet many people with disability and their service providers and to hear their stories. I continue to be impressed when I hear stories about how the NDIS is making a difference to people's lives. I need not explain the importance that the coalition government places on the success of the NDIS. However, unlike those opposite, we recognise the criticality of making sure the scheme is properly funded. I am pleased to be part of a strong coalition team who want to ensure people with disability are protected and supported in achieving their goals. I commend this bill to the House.