Victoria in Focus by Sarah Fordyce, October 2022
Our thoughts are with Victorian disability service providers, people with disabilities and broader communities affected by the recent flooding across Victoria. I have been touching base with our members to better understand whether their staff and participants are able to access critical supports during this challenging time and have been advocating for their needs through our close working relationships with government. As always, NDS is here to listen, support and advocate for disability organisations, their workforces and their participants as they navigate this challenge.
Mental Health Month
This October we are celebrating National Mental Health Month and are taking the opportunity to raise awareness about the mental health needs of participants and workers in the disability sector. As we emerge from two years of isolation and extreme stress, the mental health and wellbeing of staff and participants continues to be raised as a key concern of our members.
Adults with disabilities are up to five times more likely than other adults to experience high levels of psychological distress. Yet many people with disabilities face significant barriers to accessing the mental health supports they need, and there is also a significant lack of understanding amongst workers within our sector on how to identify and respond to mental ill-health in participants, and how to empower people with disabilities to navigate the mental health system.
Our team has been working to support positive mental health outcomes for Victorians with disabilities through our Diverse Communities Project, which has been funded by the Victorian Department of Health to build the capability of disability services and their staff to better support people with disability to access appropriate mental health supports. We have begun identifying barriers and opportunities based on initial feedback from the sector, and have been supporting service providers and participants to get involved with key Victorian Government consultations on mental health system reform.
In terms of supporting the mental health and wellbeing of workers within our sector, NDS recently ran a session on Building Resilience Across the Care and Support Sector in partnership with Boosting the Local Care Workforce and Bounce Australia. With over 500 registrations, the session responded to widespread demand within the sector for strategies to build motivation and fight burnout amongst support workers. A recording of the session will be made available on our website shortly.
With Victorians heading to the polls in under 50 days, NDS has been busy engaging with candidates to ensure that the voice of the disability sector is heard within this election campaign.
As the Victorian election fast approaches, I have invited both the Minister, the Hon. Colin Brooks and Shadow Minister, the Hon. Tim Bull to present to disability services and respond to questions.
The Hon. Tim Bull MP, Shadow Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, will join us on 20 October. Questions have started flowing in from members and I encourage you to register for the pre-election session with the Shadow Minister and submit your questions.
We have also released our 2022 Victorian Election Platform.
I am in the process of finalising an equivalent session with the Minister and will be sure to share the details via a news update once this is confirmed.
As election day approaches, it is also time to begin having conversations with participants about voting and making preparations to support participants to vote on election day. The Inclusion Designlab have created some fantastic voting resources to assist people with disabilities and those who support them to prepare for election day. They are also putting together plain English candidate videos, and calling on election candidates to get involved so that people with intellectual disabilities can access information and make informed voting decisions this election.
Victorian Policy and Regulation
The Victorian NDS team has been particularly busy with advocacy as the Victorian Government finalises work in the lead up to the election care-taker period.
We recently hosted the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing for an interactive information session on the Disability Inclusion Bill Exposure Draft, which if passed will play a pivotal role in driving inclusion of people with disabilities in Victoria. NDS will be making a recording of the session available on our website. You can find out more about the Exposure Draft and make a submission via the Engage Victoria Website.
NDS has been advocating for improvements to the NDIS Worker Screening Clearance in Victoria, in light of an increase in member concerns about application process issues and delays. At a recent Victorian Workforce Network Meeting, I was particularly concerned to see poll results that indicated that 75 per cent of organisations had lost staff during the onboarding process due to the NDIS Check.
I recently wrote to the Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, highlighting significant shifts in the environment which dictate the need for action to improve the NDIS check process in Victoria. These include tight labour market conditions which have led to greater competition between industries (including those which do not have similar barrier to entry) for a small pool of workers, and a real shift in the complexity of the applicant profile, which is placing significant pressure on the manual application system and the HR teams in organisations who are supporting applicants through the process.
NDS has also been advocating to the Victorian Government for a review of accreditation requirements for providers who operate bus services for people with disabilities. In a recent meeting with Safe Transport Victoria (STV), we raised concerns about the impacts of accreditation on the availability of transport options for people with disabilities, noting that a number of service providers are selling off or downsizing their fleets due to the administrative burden of bus accreditation requirements.
STV has committed to working with NDS and the sector to provide assistance to implement the requirements in a way that minimises regulatory burden. If you are interested in discussing these issues further, please reach out to my colleague Clare Hambly: submit enquiry/feedback
The Victorian Government is conducting a 5-year review of the Reportable Conduct Scheme, which requires in-scope organisations including disability service providers to investigate and report allegations of child-related misconduct to the Commission for Children and Young People. I’d like to invite you to join a consultation session for disability organisations hosted by the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing to gather feedback to inform the review.
Opportunity to shape the involvement of people with disabilities in the 2026 Victorian Commonwealth Games
We recently welcomed the Minister for Commonwealth Games Legacy to a session with service providers to brainstorm how disability organisations and Victorians with disabilities can be empowered to make a meaningful contribution to the 2026 Commonwealth Games, which will be held in Regional Victoria.
Hosting the Commonwealth Games has shown to boost local and national GDP and have significant social and environmental benefits. I am keen to see people with disabilities and the organisations who support them reap the benefits of this fantastic opportunity.
I was very encouraged by the Minister and Commonwealth Games Organising Committee’s enthusiasm to promote inclusion of people with disabilities in all facets of the Games, including through social procurement from disability enterprises, employment of people with disabilities, volunteer roles for participants and of course, participation as athletes and spectators.
NDS is putting together a paper to outline the associated opportunities that could be available for our sector. If you are a supported employment provider with participants who could deliver essential goods, or a day services provider with participants who could play a role in supporting the events on the ground, we want to hear from you! Please reach out to my colleague Grame West, Disability Sector Consultant, submit enquiry/feedback.
Data Security and Information Privacy
In the wake of the Optus hacking scandal, disability service providers have been closely considering the sorts of information they store and how it is stored.
The Commonwealth Government has created a useful Cyber Security Assessment Tool which provides a rating on your cyber security readiness. The report generated from the survey tool identifies the cyber security strengths of your organisation, gives insights into areas where your organisation can improve, and provides suggestions and resources to improve your systems.