Victoria in Focus by Sarah Fordyce, February 2024
In our first newsletter for the year, I welcome everyone and hope you are refreshed from the summer break. The year ahead looks to be an eventful one.
Like everyone, we are digesting the recommendations of the NDIS Review, which came out in December, hot on the heels of the Disability Royal Commission (DRC) final report. While we wait for state and federal governments to respond to the recommendations, we are gearing up for another suite of major transformations of the disability system.
Although Minister Shorten has already told us that changes are likely to occur over several years rather than months, we are busy shoring up our policy positions for a long campaign of advocacy.
In Victoria, we are consulting with members and developing some commentary on the challenges and opportunities posed by the recommendations for local providers.
Two hot issues coming out of the NDIS Review are the development of foundational supports with redevelopment of an ecosystem outside of NDIS supports, and the proposed requirement for disability service providers to be registered or enrolled.
For Victorian members, other key issues are the need for a structural adjustment fund to help providers through the changes and the need for comprehensive consultation with stakeholders in the design and implementation of the major reforms.
On registration, the Victorian Government has announced the appointment of Jonathan Kaplan as the new Social Services Regulator (SSR). Mr. Kaplan is a seasoned public servant with a record of senior leadership positions across government in regulation, dispute resolution, policy and corporate governance. The SSR will be responsible for a new single set of social service standards and a single registration process for social service organisations funded by the Victorian government.
The government has also announced that it will introduce a new complaints function for the regulator to improve safeguards for Victorians who access social services. Because of the potential for confusion and duplication, we believe it critical that this function is coordinated with other disability complaints processes.
When the SSR opens its doors on 1 July, it will absorb the functions of the Disability Services Commissioner, which include assessing, conciliating or investigating complaints about disability services. A new regulatory scheme for social services will also start on that date, subject to legislation being passed by parliament.
Eventually, the functions of the Victorian Disability Worker Commission and the Disability Worker Registration Board of Victoria will also merge into the Social Services Regulator. It is expected that these functions will also be merged into the Regulator in 2026 — again, subject to the passage of the necessary legislation.
Since major changes to the national safeguarding regime have been recommended, NDS is keen that the new Victorian scheme aligns with any future Federal registration scheme.
Another issue on our agenda is the 2023—24 Annual NDIS Pricing Review (APR). Public consultations are open and we urge you to make a submission before the closing date of Sunday 3 March. You can find the Provider Consultation Paper on the NDIS website and NDS has pulled together a range of resources to guide providers in this task.
In the light of the 2023 NDS State of the Sector report, which indicated widespread financial difficulties across NDS members, it is critical that there is strong lobbying of the Pricing Review.
On a brighter note, members of the NDS Vic team recently attended the VALID Have a Say Conference in Geelong, and enjoyed meeting up with many of our members, and a range of stakeholders involved in providing, funding or regulating disability services in Victoria.