Victoria in Focus by Sarah Fordyce, December 2022
As another year draws to a close, the NDS team has been reflecting on the achievements of the sector and preparing for a particularly big year of policy and advocacy work in 2023.
It has been a busy year. The NDS Victorian team hosted 87 meetings with service providers, which attracted almost 8000 registrants. These are fantastic opportunities for members to hear updates, learn from expert opinions and share their experiences.
The Victorian team has also been celebrating the recent release of our Safer and Stronger Reflections Report, which describes the challenges faced by the sector during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report reviews NDS’s two-year Safer and Stronger Project, funded by the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) to support the sector through the pandemic. It has been wonderful to reflect on the legacy of the project, which includes increased collaboration among service providers, the development of extensive online networks, and the delivery of useful resources such as disability sector-driven infection control training.
As always, the International Day of People with Disability earlier this month was a day for celebration and reflection for NDS and our members. With this year’s theme being "Innovation to Fuel an Accessible and Equitable World”, the NDS team feels inspired to keep sharing best practice and promoting innovation and continuous improvement in the sector as we head into 2023.
Policy and advocacy update
Critical to NDS’s work this year has been our advocacy, ensuring the voice of disability service providers was heard at both state and national levels. We would like to extend a warm welcome to the new Victorian Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, the Hon. Lizzie Blandthorn, and look forward to meeting with her in the new year.
This year, we wrote submissions on a range of Victorian policy issues, including disability inclusion, OH and S regulations, child safety mechanisms, gig economy standards, coroners’ regulations and, of course, the state budget.
We have also represented the sector’s interests in regular engagements with key stakeholders, including the DFFH, the Office of the Public Advocate, the Department of Justice and Community Safety, WorkSafe, the Transport Accident Commission, the Victorian Skills Commission, Mental Health Sector Reform Network, and the Victorian Disability Worker Commission.
We’ve also participated in working groups on the Social Services Regulation Reforms, the Disability Act Review, the Autism Plan, the Victorian Skills Plan, and others.
We’ll be continuing our Victorian sector development work and contributing to important reviews that will hand down recommendations in 2023, including, the NDIS Review, the Jobs and Skills white paper and the Disability Royal Commission.
Before then, I have a few updates to round out the year:
- NDS continues to advocate for updates to the NDIS check application process in Victoria to reduce barriers to the sector and ease workforce pressures. We are collecting case studies for our advocacy and can assist you with fast-tracking applications; please send any feedback or fast-tracking requests to Clare Hambly: submit enquiry/feedback. NDS is also advocating at a national level for a more efficient NDIS Check process.
- We recently engaged with members of our Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) Reference Group to inform a Submission to the NDIS SDA pricing review. Our submission’s key requests included consideration of rising construction costs, adjustments to the geographical determinants of funding, recognition of the costs of vacancy management and greater transparency in funding decisions. The submission will be made available on our Policy Library soon.
- For the Victorian Bus Accreditation Scheme, we have been formally advocating for exemptions from fees and special number plates. We hope an exemption for disability service providers from the number plate requirements will be handed down shortly, with fee exemptions to come later in 2023.
COVID-19 and health update
We continue to see rising COVID-19 case numbers in Victoria, highlighting the need for ongoing vigilance to reduce the spread of the virus. As we head into the holiday period, it is important to monitor for symptoms and take infection control precautions, such as handwashing and mask-wearing.
Within disability settings, it’s important that staff know how to implement infection control, including outbreak management plans.
We are pleased to release a revised version of our highly popular online infection prevention and control course, originally developed during 2020 to address COVID-19. The course has been updated for day-to-day infection control, including reducing transmission of common diseases and knowing how to manage COVID-19 waves and other health risks. Additional components include the importance of vaccinations and more detail on ventilation, fit-checking of respiratory masks, increasing PPE effectiveness and the importance of cleaning.
Access to the course is through Health Education Collaborative, who partnered with NDS to develop the original course and contributed extensive infection control expertise and experience.
NDS is undertaking a range of initiatives to help members cope with workforce challenges.
Our team continues to identify, promote and encourage best practice strategies for organisations to retain their staff:
- In partnership with Dr Susan Nancarrow from AHP Workforce, we have brought together an Allied Health Workforce Network of over 180 representatives to share lessons about retaining allied health workers in the sector.
- We have also delivered highly successful webinars on “How diversity aids retention”, “Staff Retention in the Disability Sector” (with SACS Consulting), and “Rostering for retention”.
- You may also be interested in reading our report, Factors affecting Disability Support Worker Retention within the Disability Sector, which explores why workers stay in a job, including organisational culture, supervision, workload and burnout, and job security and progression.
Entry to Care Roles Project
We are wrapping up our Entry to Care Roles Project, a Local Jobs Project getting long-term unemployed people into disability sector careers. The project has been a great success, preparing 36 long-term unemployed people to move into entry-level roles.
The project highlighted the need for more investment to bring the disability sector and employment consultants together. It has also showed that the disability sector needs more resources to better onboard and support the long-term unemployed, many of whom are culturally and linguistically diverse.
We are proud of the achievements of the project participants and look forward to hearing how they get on as they establish their careers.
Social Services Jobs Guarantee to assist disability services
The Victorian Government is rolling out a $39M Social Services Job Guarantee Program, which will link new graduates to jobs in the disability sector. It will allow employers to access a pool of suitable graduates, promote job vacancies and get recruitment assistance from Jobs Victoria. Employers can access up to $20,000 per student for onboarding, supervision, training and other costs. Read more about it on our website.
Victorian Government releases new standards for gig economy workers
The Victorian Government has released new Fair Conduct and Accountability Standards designed to promote fairness and transparency in dealings between on-demand platforms and gig workers. The standards cover issues such as pay and conditions, consultation, the right to representation, dispute resolution and safety. The new standards will be voluntary when introduced in the first quarter of 2023, but the Government plans to introduce laws next year to ensure compliance with the standards. Read more about the new standards on our website.
NDS State of the Disability Sector Report 2022
In case you missed it, we released our State of the Sector Report 2022 last month, which is our annual health check on the disability services sector. The latest report reveals a difficult operating environment for most providers, but with some glimmers of hope and a cautious expectation of positive change.
Become an exhibitor at VALID’s upcoming conference
Places are still available for exhibitors in the Our Choice Expo at VALID's 2023 “Having a Say” conference in Geelong, from 20 to 21 February 2023. The registration form will tell you all you need to know (pdf).
Sign up for the NDS Victoria eNewsletter
If you are not receiving this NDS News Victoria eNewsletter, I encourage you to subscribe. It is sent to you each month to keep you up-to-date with the latest issues, events and insights into the disability sector in Victoria.
Wishing you a happy festive season
On behalf of the team at NDS, I wish you a very happy and safe festive season. While some of you will enjoy a much-needed break, we know that many in our sector will be delivering vital services to Victorians with disabilities over the Christmas period. We will be thinking of you. Stay safe.
After a short break at the end of December, we’ll be back on board to continue our work to support and advocate for the sector.
Congratulations on your work in 2022. I look forward to seeing everyone in the new year.