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12/04/2024
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NDS seeks comment on a new complaints model for the Victorian regulator

A close up of people meeting around a table in an office

28/03/2024

NDS is seeking member feedback on the complaints model being proposed for the new Victorian Social Services Regulator.

The Victorian Government has just introduced legislation into parliament to merge the functions of the Disability Services Commissioner into the Social Services Regulator. This will enable the handling and resolution of complaints about non-NDIS disability service providers to continue in that office.

Following the passing of the Bill, a new complaints model will need to be introduced.

NDS acknowledges the significant role that good complaint and incident management systems play in continuous quality improvement. However, we call for regulatory approaches that balance the need for safe, high-quality supports with limits to the compliance and auditing burden on providers.

Many complaints models include the ability for the complaints agency to investigate complaints by service users and conduct their investigations into providers. This includes the Disability Services Commissioner, the Health Complaints Commissioner and the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission. These models also include a ‘no wrong door’ policy, which makes sure that a person making a complaint won’t be turned away but redirected down the appropriate complaint pathway.

The best models provide clear guidance on complaint escalation; that is, what complaints can be managed within a service and what needs to be reported to a regulator.

It is also important that, as part of the regulatory culture, it is ok to complain. Users of services ought to be encouraged to speak up, while service providers should accept that complaints and feedback are an important part of continuous quality improvement.

While it is important to meet these criteria for a good complaints management system, we believe it just as crucial to minimise the regulatory burden of reportable incidents. Compliance duties already strain an overworked sector that, nevertheless, is committed to delivering safe and high-quality services.

We also need to thoroughly consider the cost model of regulatory obligations and make sure all providers are equipped with the information and resources for delivering safe, high-quality services.

The Victorian government consultation on the new model poses two questions for NDS that we would like to pass on to our members:

  • Do you consider that the complaint model should include a power for the Regulator to investigate complaints and conduct their own investigations. Why or why not?
  • Do you consider that a complaints model should have other tools to encourage compliance with complaints? This might include the power to enforce an undertaking that a provider has made; or the ability to issue an improvement notice to a provider after a complaint investigation. Why or why not?

If you have views on any of these questions or any other feedback on a complaints model for the new Regulator, please send them to our Policy and Project Officer, Paul Bourke, by 30 April.

Contact information
Paul Bourke, Policy & Project Officer, 03 8341 4317, submit enquiry/feedback