New Victorian Social Service Regulations finalised
What you need to know
- The new Victorian Social Services Regulations 2023 have been finalised and will go into operation on 1 July next year.
- After considering all the feedback from both written submissions and survey responses to the proposed regulations, including a submission from NDS, 24 clauses were amended.
- The revisions are intended to improve clarity, support the operation of the regulations and make sure they work as intended.
- NDS’s concerns about regulatory burden and registration costs for providers were deemed outside changes to the proposed regulations.
- However, these issues may be addressed by the new Social Services Regulator once the role is filled.
After considering all the feedback from both written submissions and survey responses to proposed regulations, including a submission from NDS, the new Victorian Social Services Regulations 2023 have been finalised and published. Twenty-four clauses were amended to improve clarity and support the intended operation of the regulations. They come into effect on 1 July.
The new Victorian regulations are designed to keep people who use social services safe from abuse and neglect. The scheme will apply to disability services provided or funded by the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH), the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) or Victorian WorkCover Authority (WorkSafe), supported residential services, and other DFFH funded community services.
After the proposed regulations were published in May, the Government opened a consultation until July. The publication of the regulations includes a Statement of Reasons that responds to the submissions it received.
The key features of the new regulatory scheme are:
- a new independent regulator — the Social Services Regulator
- mandatory and ongoing registration for social service providers within the scheme
- six Social Services Standards that all registered social service providers must meet
- a Worker and Carer Exclusion Scheme for out of home care workers and carers
- a comprehensive and graduated set of enforcement tools for early intervention that allows the regulator to respond to risks proportionately and quickly.
In our submission responding to the regulatory impact statement, we emphasised the need to avoid duplication of compliance requirements. We called for recognising registration under similar schemes, such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme. This has particular importance for TAC- and WorkSafe-funded disability service providers.
We also were concerned about the financial burden of registration for providers, including potential registration fees and costs of demonstrating that they meet registration requirements.
The regulations do not directly address these issues, but the Statement of Reasons says that it will be up to the new regulator to decide how to recognise and reduce duplication. The statement goes on to note, however, that, under the Social Services Regulation Act 2021, the regulator will be required by its guiding principles to recognising compliance with other regulatory schemes if it reduces duplication.
More specifically, section 32 of the Act enables the regulator to exempt a person or class of person from a requirement of registration. For example, if the regulator has enough information to demonstrate that a service provider substantially meets the same requirement for registration under another regulatory framework, such as being a suitable person, the regulator could exempt them from meeting the same requirement under the Social Services Regulations.
Other amendments in the new regulations make sure the Disability and Social Services Amendment Act 2023 operates as intended. For example, section 113 empowers an authorised officer or independent investigator to enter a supported residence without the consent of the occupier. So that this operates effectively, a new regulation 45 sets out the residential disability services it applies to.
Given the discretionary powers of the Social Services Regulator in the Act and their importance in minimising regulatory overlap in the registration scheme and compliance, NDS will be following the appointment of the Regulator and their initial directions and determinations with interest.
The new Social Services Regulation Transitional Regulations 2023 have also been published and available on the Victorian legislation website. These set out how current registrations under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005, the Disability Act 2006 and the Supported Residential Services (Private Proprietors) Act 2010 will transfer into the new scheme. It also sets out when providers who are not registered need to apply for registration under the new scheme. We expect that those disability providers covered by the scheme will transition into it by mid-2025.
You can read or download the new Social Services Regulations and the Statement of Reasons from the Engage Victoria website.