Victoria in Focus by Fiona Still, October 2023
The October edition of Victoria in Focus comes to you while our state manager, Sarah Fordyce, takes a well-deserved break. Well into the final quarter of the year, we still have much to review, reflect and act on. With the Disability Royal Commission report just released, we look forward to the NDIS Review report and the resetting of the system to best support the needs of all people with disability.
The Final Report of the Disability Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of People with Disability (DRC) was tabled in Parliament on Friday 29 September. The DRC outlined an extensive plan towards a more inclusive society that supports the independence of people with disability and their right to live free from violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation. There was deeply distressing testimony during this investigation, and NDS is fully committed to collaborating with government, people with disability, advocates, and the sector to ensure that all Australians with disability have access to the safe, quality and culturally appropriate services they deserve.
We need to support the practice and wellbeing of all the committed and dedicated people working in the sector, while addressing the issues the Royal Commission highlighted. Remember that we have the Zero Tolerance suite of resources that can help you create systems and processes in your organisation to recognise, prevent and respond to abuse.
In Victoria, as part of implementing the Disability and Social Services Regulation Amendment Act 2023, the Department of Government Services has consulted with NDS about the subordinate instruments, which will update the prescribed SDA residency agreement. We submitted a response to the draft of these instruments. In summary, NDS remains concerned about the confusion that the new definition of SDA Dwelling will have in the broader sector. The definition includes not only SDA enrolled dwellings but housing and support for people with disability. Redefining it this way risks confusion for both providers and people with a disability.
We will work with the state government to ensure that the sector is informed of the changes, including disability housing providers, daily independent living support providers, and support workers, so they understand the wider application of these tenancy protections.
NDS still has concerns around the delays in the screening process for worker registration. We are working closely with Service Victoria and the NDIS Worker Screening Unit to speed up processes. Currently, the median time to process applications in Victoria is around 11 days, but manual (paper) applications average five weeks. Pleasingly, delays have been cut for volunteers in risk-assessed roles, who can now apply for a free NDIS Screening Check online.
With the recent confirmation of Hon. Jacinta Allen as Premier of Victoria and reallocation of ministerial portfolios, we confirm The Hon. Lizzie Blandthorn has been appointed Minister for Disability and Iwan Walters as the Parliamentary Secretary for Disability. We look forward to continuing to work with these parliamentarians in their now dedicated disability portfolios.
As highlighted last month, the cost and availability of insurance for disability service providers remains an ongoing concern. NDS recently met with the office of the Federal Assistant Treasurer on this issue and have also raised it with Minister Shorten. We are pushing for an industry roundtable on the issue, while also seeking Victorian government support. Our analysis indicates that, while some larger providers are considering self-insurance, many small to medium-sized providers may be operating without appropriate insurance cover.
We have commenced the NDS and VALID Mental Health Capability Uplift Project. This two-year project, funded by the Victorian Government, aims to boost the capabilities of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Local Services system to best support people with disability. The project will use codesign principles to identify placed-based solutions to the mental health access and support barriers, test the solutions, and evaluate these for system change.
NDS is hosting an in-person Hot Topics event for NDS Members on 25 October, with presentations and discussion about key issues affecting Victorian service providers. State committee chair, Hayley Dean, with chair the session which will feature updates from Parliamentary Secretary for Disability, Iwan Walters, the NDS Director of Policy and Advocacy, Emily Forrest, and NDS State Manager, Sarah Fordyce. This event gives disability sector leaders a chance to network and hear about the key issues affecting providers. There will be a lively Q and A with our speakers. In November, we will also hold regional events in Ballarat, Bendigo, and Traralgon. We look forward to seeing you at one of these events.