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Zero Tolerance

Zero Tolerance (an NDS initiative) assists disability service providers to understand, implement and improve practices which safeguard the rights of people
they support.

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RC hears from NDIA and Victorian Department of Families, Fairness and Housing

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The day's evidence involved state and federal bureaucrats being questioned on details of SDA and SIL funding, in-kind services, service agreements and NDIS plans. Questions went to conflict of interest, relationships between funding and service quality, and transitionary arrangements. Answers given were sometimes vague or obscure.A Deputy Secretary from the Victorian Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) was questioned on the Department’s role in relation to the 'Melbourne house', which it continues to own. Counsel Assisting questioned the witness at length about the nature of in-kind arrangements and how the Department assessed service quality.

While the Department was aware of the Community Visitors’ reports discussed yesterday, the witness from DFFH said it was difficult to conclude the issues were systemic. When she implied the Department preferred remediation over sanction, Counsel asserted the chances of the Department terminating a service agreement seemed ‘almost non-existent’.The witness was asked about resident compatibility and vacancy management. The Department selected residents initially, but no documents assessing new and existing residents’ compatibility could be provided. The witness admitted consulting with residents and families before including new residents was a more recent process.The General Manager of National Delivery from the NDIA was questioned at length about SDA and SIL, including where these are, or were, provided in transitionary in-kind arrangements. Life Without Barriers’ application to convert an empty bedroom in the 'Lismore house' to a therapeutic room was rejected by the NDIA based on its registration status as a five-bed home. The witness said in-kind arrangements made this situation more complex, but couldn’t say definitively if a similar request would be approved today.On the topic of resident-to-resident abuse, the Agency cited short and medium-term accommodation as available supports to participants seeking to flee. When asked if Support Coordinators were trained to support people to transition out of such environments, he emphasised the NDIA doesn’t offer any training to providers.Counsel turned to NDIS plan funding, asking if a participant could access planners’ reasoning behind plan decisions. The witness said ideally the rationale would be explained in a conversation with the participant, and suggested there were now more avenues apart from plan appeals. The Royal Commission was interested in the NDIA’s scrutiny of providers, and how it ensures supports are provided in line with participants’ expectations. The witness responded by saying the NDIA encourages service agreements, and participants can report breaches to the NDIS Commission, or take their business elsewhere.Citing figures on the prevalence of providers offering some combination of SIL, SDA and Support Coordination, the Royal Commission again raised the NDIA’s policy on conflict of interest. The witness reiterated the Agency’s ‘strong preference’ for separation, noting a blanket rule of separation may prove difficult in regional and rural areas.The hearing resumes 10am (AEDT) Monday, 13 December, when evidence will be given by Life Without Barriers.

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