Victoria in Focus by Sarah Fordyce, September 2022
After a challenging winter with workforce shortages and significant incidence of COVID-19 and other viruses placing additional pressure on disability service providers, there is a sense that our sector is relieved to see the advent of spring. I have recently enjoyed getting out to visit our members again, visiting a number of regional service providers in south west Victoria. I look forward to visiting more members and heading out to other regions as we move into the warmer months.
NDS Election Advocacy
The countdown to the 2022 Victorian election has begun, prompting NDS to step up its election advocacy work. With under 75 days until Victorians go to the polls, we are developing our 2022 Victorian Election Platform, which outlines 12 key advocacy priorities for our sector and for Victorians with disabilities.
Titled ‘Boosting Support and Opportunity for Victorians with Disability’, the platform will call on the next Victorian Government to address key asks under three priority areas:
- Support a resilient and skilled disability sector capable of delivering high quality services
- Reduce the complexity of the regulatory environment
- Continue to build an inclusive Victorian community
In relation to support for the sector, we are calling on the next Victorian Government to engage with the Commonwealth to ensure access to high quality NDIS funded supports. We are also advocating for investment in a major workforce strategy, support for the sector to innovate and implement best practice, and funding for NDS to continue to assist the sector to engage with Victorian policy development.
Noting the complexity of the regulatory environment, our platform calls for a review and realignment of the swathe of Victorian safeguarding initiatives, with the aim of reducing duplication and minimising unintended negative outcomes for people with disabilities. We are also pushing for a review of Victoria’s NDIS worker screening system, which continues to stifle speedy recruitment in our sector.
Under the theme of building an inclusive Victoria, NDS is calling on the next Victorian Government to invest in supports for people with disability who are not eligible for the NDIS through funding to improve the accessibility of mainstream services and those that interface with the NDIS. We are also calling for a disability housing strategy, promotion of employment opportunities for people with disabilities, investment in accessible transport, improved accessibility of mental health supports, and greater support to promote the civic, political, and human rights of Victorians with disabilities.
NDS will continue engaging with candidates in the lead up to the election to ensure that the voice of disability service providers is represented in this election campaign.
Workforce recruitment and retention continues to be a key concern for organisations as we manage tight labour market conditions.
We have seen a great deal of interest in our Workforce Retention Project funded by DFFH, with the recent workshops from our ‘Allied Health Worker retention throughout the employment life cycle workshop series’ with Dr Susan Nancarrow booking out in record time. Our new Allied Health Workforce Network had its first meeting in August, and anyone can register here for the meeting on 25 October.
NDS is partnering with SACS to present an online workshop on 6 October on the popular topic of why people leave their jobs, and keep a look out for Rostering for Retention training later in the year. We are keen to continue to deliver learning opportunities, tools, and resources to the sector to assist you to retain high quality workers, and will keep you posted as these opportunities arise.
We have recently celebrated some key milestones in our Entry to Care Roles Project, which aims to train and support jobseekers from a range of backgrounds into entry level roles in the disability sector in Melbourne. The graduation ceremony for the first intake group took place last week and was a joyous occasion for all involved. The project participants received their accredited training certificates, reflected on all they had learnt, and shared excited stories about their new jobs in the disability sector. We look forward to celebrating again later in the year as participants in our second round complete their training and enter our sector.
NDS is starting work on another project on ‘Addressing Occupational Violence in the Victorian Disability Sector’. We recently held a session to gather feedback from the sector on some of the key issues and opportunities in this space and look forward to continuing to engage with providers. Organisations can also provide advice to inform the project by participating in our ‘Occupational Violence Sounding Group’. Participants will be consulted via email for advice and feedback about the project outputs. If you are interested in joining the group, please get in touch with Fiona Still: submit enquiry/feedback
A key challenge on the workforce front relates to continued issues associated with the NDIS Check system in Victoria. NDS has noticed an uptake in queries related to the NDIS check process and is concerned that application processing times may be blowing out. I will continue to raise this issue with the Victorian Government, highlighting the significant impacts of application delays on recruitment, onboarding and retention for our sector.
The number of COVID cases in the broader community continues to drop after the most recent peak in late July, easing some pressure on workforce shortages and workload. Disability services are encouraged to continue reporting any positive worker and participant cases for outbreak management and early access to local public health unit supports and COVID treatments. Despite the reduction in COVID case numbers, maintaining strong infection prevention and control measures will need to continue as business as usual with COVID expected to remain a risk for some time, especially as our northern hemisphere visitors arrive for our warmer months.
Many will be aware that the National Cabinet recently handed down a decision to reduce the isolation period for COVID-19 positive cases from seven to five days following a positive test if the individual is asymptomatic on day five. Victorian Department of Health has advised NDS that disability workers can leave isolation after five days but are not permitted to work in a disability setting. All people who leave isolation after day five, disability workers, participants and visitors are not permitted to visit any sensitive setting, which includes all disability settings, hospitals, and residential aged care, for the next two days and must wear a mask if leaving home. People who are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms are required to isolate for the full seven days. Further details will be posted in a news update when the DFFH update is finalised.
Victorian Metal Health Reforms and Disability Input
NDS was awarded project funding to support the mental health reforms arising from the Victorian Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System. This project will focus on identification of mental health needs of people with disabilities, their access to appropriate services and barriers and opportunities for improvement. As part of the focus, NDS will identify how the insights of people with lived experience can support mental health and disability sector workers to increase their knowledge and practice in early identification of individual’s needs and development of service models that are appropriate to the diversity existing within the disability population.
Several consultations with diverse community population groups are underway and details of how people with a disability, carers and disability provider representatives can participate will be outlined in our news updates. This is an important opportunity to affect real change with organisations across LGBTIQA+, CALD, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities, exploring together the intersecting barriers and opportunities for reform. NDS is pleased that the Victorian Government has committed to a 10-year reform plan that is independent to election outcomes. Organisations can also provide advice to inform this project by participating in our Diverse Communities and Mental Health and Wellbeing group who will be consulted via email for advice and feedback about the project outputs. If you are interested in joining the group, please get in touch with Heather McMinn: submit enquiry/feedback
Don’t Miss These Upcoming Events
Raising Expectations – 2022 Virtual Disability Conference
Wednesday 21 September
It’s your last chance to register for this year’s Virtual DIsability Conference. With the theme of ‘Raising Expectations’, the 2022 conference which is delivered in a partnership between NDS, the University of Melbourne, Scope and AFDO, 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.
Victorian Disability Inclusion Bill Exposure Draft - Information session
Friday, 30 September
NDS is hosting a session for providers to learn more about a new Victorian Disability Inclusion Bill. The new Bill is designed to be a central document in advancing and promoting disability inclusion in Victoria. Its really important for our sector to engage with this. DFFH will provide an update on the Bill, and NDS will use this opportunity to gather feedback from the sector to inform our advocacy.