Victoria in Focus by Sarah Fordyce, June 2023
The Victorian budget, new state legislation, release of the Social Services Regulations RIS, Workcover premium increases and group pricing changes have kept us busy over the last month. We have also been keeping abreast of national developments, such as the release of NDIS Review issue papers, participating in NDIS Commission workshops on regulatory burden, and monitoring developments with the new NDIA provider portal , PACE.
We have also been reaching out to members, hearing their concerns and having interesting discussions at our network meetings. Heather McMinn and I recently visited Geelong and Warrnambool and caught up with NDS members at the South West Disability Network meeting. We also took the chance to visit individual members while we were in the area. We are looking forward to more visits over coming months.
With the Victorian Budget focussed on COVID debt recovery and funding election commitments, there was no new major funding for the disability sector. However, there was some initiative funding for children and young people with disability in out-of-home care, and for kindergarten-aged children with developmental delay. And there was continued funding for the mental health system redevelopment, the Pathways to Home program, Disability Liaison Officers, and the Victorian Disability Advocacy Program.
Funded projects that will directly or indirectly affect providers included extending the free TAFE program, the new Gig Worker Support Service, regional scholarships for allied health students, and the creation of digital services that, we hope, will improve the NDIS worker screening processes.
We are disappointed in the lack of funding for some measures we called for in our budget submission, such as building Tier Two supports, addressing disability workforce challenges, and promoting good quality disability practice.
The Disability and Social Services Amendment Act 2023 passed the Parliament of Victoria on 15 May. The Act extends the higher-level tenancy protections of SDA residents to TAC and Workcover clients and people with disability living in SIL accommodation. The Act also streamlines the process for issuing a notice of temporary relocation and notice to vacate to a resident.
NDS has been consulted during this long and complex legislative amendment process. We support much of the intent of the legislation. However, we are concerned over the use of the terms “SDA dwelling” and “SDA resident” for people and properties not receiving NDIA SDA funding. We believe this will cause confusion for residents and providers.
Some SDA providers have also pointed out the strong disincentive to take on complex participants because of the new requirement to find alternative accommodation for them when giving a Request to Vacate. NDS will consult with the Department of Families Fairness and Housing to make sure they consider these issues when implementing the changes.
The Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) for the draft Social Services Regulations, which complement the Social Services Regulation Act 2021, have been released. The Act introduced a new scheme for registration and reporting requirements for Victorian social service providers by creating a common set of social service standards and a single independent regulator.
NDS has raised concerns about how the new framework will interact with NDIS registration and whether this will lead to more regulatory burden for providers.
The NDIS Review has recently released papers on Building a More Responsive and Supportive Workforce, The Role of Pricing and Payment Approaches in Improving Participant Outcomes and Scheme Sustainability and Alternative Commissioning for Remote and First Nations Communities.
NDS has released updates on each of these, engaging with our members to form our response to the Review. The NDIS Commission, in partnership with NDS, hosted a series of Workshops on Regulatory Burden around the country. At the Melbourne meeting, issues with worker screening, information exchange and the interaction between state and federal regulation, particularly about restrictive practices, were raised. The NDIS will gather your issues, questions and suggestions for improvement in an issues paper.
To address sector concerns on the transition to the new group price schedule, the NDIA gave a presentation at a recent NDS Day Services Network meeting. Questions from members in response were sent to the NDIA after the meeting. We will circulate their answers as soon as they respond.
With the colder weather keeping us all inside, it is important to remember vaccinating for both influenza and COVID-19, which have spiked recently.
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