Victoria in Focus by Sarah Fordyce, August 2022
Victorian disability service providers continue to operate within a challenging and highly complex environment. There are widespread workforce shortages; high (though slowing) rates of community transmission of COVID-19; tight funding and complex NDIS processes; inflation, price and wage pressures; widespread mental health concerns; and significant regulatory oversight at both the national and state levels.
NDS frequently polls providers at our network meetings on their top concerns. Recent results have consistently shown economic viability, workforce shortages, NDIS prices and processes, and staff and participant mental health and wellbeing as top current issues for our sector.
On the workforce front, I am consistently hearing stories of members struggling to manage the impacts of COVID, other illnesses and recreational leave impacting on their capacity to fill rosters. I am urging providers to report workforce shortages impacting on service provision to the NDIS Commission. Without this occurring both the NDIA and Federal Government continue to underestimate the impact workforce shortages are having on our sector.
Regarding mental health, NDS is excited to be working on a new project designed to build the capability of disability services and their staff to better support people with disability to access appropriate mental health supports. The project will also support the sector to actively engage in the current mental health system reforms in Victoria.
In relation to NDIS prices and processes, I was pleased to see the release of a statement from the recent Disability Reform Ministers Meeting within which all Ministers agreed that the original objectives of the NDIS need to be restored. Ministers also committed to consulting with the sector on the scope, principles, and approach to the review of the NDIS, which Minister Shorten has brought forward to this year. NDS has been working with disability service providers and sector experts to identify proposed solutions to the current NDIS policy challenges. We will be actively engaging with the Minister and states and territories to inform the review terms of reference.
The Victorian NDS team has been particularly busy representing the needs of disability services within various policy consultations this last month.
I am continuing to provide feedback and advice on the Victorian Government’s Social Services Regulation Reforms through participation in the Reform Taskforce. In a recent NDS sector consultation, we heard deeply concerning messages from providers who indicated that they may need to withdraw services to Victorian Government-funded clients if they need to engage with a new registration and accreditation scheme in addition to the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding framework. We continue to advocate strongly for recognition of the national quality and safeguarding framework within the new scheme.
NDS has also been engaging with the Victorian Government on changes to the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) to expand access to the Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) lease agreement for Victorians living in disability accommodation who are not recipients of SDA funding. The change will mean that all participants who receive daily independent living supports in Victoria will be able to access a higher level of tenancy protections than available through a standard lease agreement. It will also mean that group homes currently gazetted under the Disability Act will transfer onto SDA lease agreements under the RTA.
NDS has also been engaging with the Department of Justice and Community Safety on proposed changes to the Coroners Regulations to require providers of daily independent living supports to report all deaths of SDA residents to the Victorian Coroners Court. Given that this information is already collected by the NDIS Commission, we have been arguing strongly for an information-sharing arrangement between the Court and the NDIS Commission to avoid duplicative reporting.
NDS has also been raising concerns around the need for greater information sharing between the Commission and Victorian Government around the use of restrictive practices. The Victorian Senior Practitioner has foreshadowed a likely requirement for duplicative reporting on the use of restrictive practices if the NDIS Commission data cannot be accessed by the Senior Practitioner’s office, which authorises the use of restrictive practices in Victoria.
Further engagement with the Victorian Government has occurred in response to a new Disability Inclusion Bill, recent changes to bus accreditation, the introduction of new Child Safe Standards, the Victorian Sick Pay Guarantee, and ongoing issues with the NDIS Checks process.
Victorian State Committee
On the home front, NDS is delighted to be welcoming three new representatives to our Victorian State Committee: Amanda Youngs, CEO at MiLife-Victoria Inc, Vaughan Winther, CEO at Australian Community Support Organisation, and Peter Symonds, CEO at IDV. We send our warm thanks to Tom Scarborough of WDEA Works, and Laura Collister of Wellways, who have both stepped down from the committee. I’d like to particularly recognise the significant contribution made by Laura as Chair of the Victorian Committee, and NDS Board member.
Upcoming key events
NDS has several key events I’d like to draw your attention to.
- NDS has received Victorian Government funding to scope issues and identify strategies to respond to occupational violence involving workers supporting residents receiving daily independent living supports. I encourage providers to attend a session on Tuesday 23 August to provide feedback on key issues and challenges and begin scoping initial strategies to address violence and aggression towards workers in our sector. Register for Occupational Violence in Victoria - Scoping the Issue
- We all know the toll of the past two and half years on the disability and aged care workforce. So we are pleased to partner with Boosting the Local Care Workforce to host a special presentation - Building Resilience across the Care and Support Sector. This free online event on Thursday 25 August will provide valuable insights into resilience, communicating with care and a toolkit of wellbeing resources. Register for Building Resilience across the Care and Support Sector
Other news and events
- Applications are now open for grants of up to $180,000 to build new Changing Places in Victoria. Changing Places are larger than standard accessible toilets with extra features to meet the needs of people with disability and their carers. For further information and to apply, visit the Victorian Government website.
- NDS in partnership with the University of Melbourne, Scope, and the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations invite you to attend our upcoming Virtual Disability Conference on 21 September. With the theme of ‘Raising Expectations’, the 2022 conference will focus on challenging the systemic barriers to greater participation for people with disability and considering the broader interests and issues for people with disability to raise expectations for a better future. Register for the conference