ACT News

ACT moves to legislate NDIS safeguards

The ACT is expected to become the first jurisdiction to legislate new standards for disability service providers as part of the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Legislation set to be introduced to the Legislative Assembly on Thursday will provide safeguards for Canberrans living with disability when it gets under way from July 1. 

Last month, the government announced the ACT would accept all eligible individuals into the scheme, which would move about 500 jobs to the private sector in a phased withdrawal from services – including accommodation support, therapy services and early childhood intervention programs – from the end of this year.

All government-provided services will move to private providers by 2017, giving participants the ability to choose the services they need using NDIS funding.

Disability Minister Joy Burch will introduce amendments promising “peace of mind to people with disability and their families during the NDIS trial".

She said no additional obligations would be placed on disability service providers under the amendments, and there was potential for a reduction in bureaucratic processes. 

“Current funding arrangements between the ACT government and disability service providers will change as contracts are phased out," Ms Burch said.

"These amendments to the Disability Services Act 1991 will ensure that current safeguards and quality standards continue to apply.

“Legislating safeguards and quality standards for disability services during the NDIS trial sends a clear message about their importance, and I am proud that the ACT will be the first jurisdiction to protect and apply important safeguards in this way."

Growth in the territory's disability sector is forecast to be $342 million by 2019-20 under the plan.

The government expects clients of disability services to receive continuing high standards of care, even where there is no contractual relationship with the service provider. 

The legislation includes provisions for procedures for resolving complaints, reporting of critical incidents, workforce quality and screening processes. 

“Until a nationally consistent approach to safeguarding people under the NDIS is developed, this legislation ensures existing safeguards will continue to apply in the ACT," Ms Burch said.

The ACT government will withdraw from specialist therapy by December 2016, from supported accommodation by June 2017, and from early intervention support services in territory schools at the end of this school year.

Mental healthcare will not be affected by the changes in the ACT.

“[The amendments] do not create any distinction between, or disadvantage to, existing disability services versus relevant new providers," Ms Burch said. 

“They also support the development of the market and make it easier for new service providers to understand the minimum safeguards and the quality assurance framework under which they will be obliged to operate.”

A December 2012 deal between Katy Gallagher and former prime minister Julia Gillard committed the territory to provide the scheme for 5000 disabled Canberrans by this year.

A new disability advocacy organisation for people from diverse backgrounds will also be launched.

Ethnic Disability ACT will seek to promote cultural diversity alongside disability rights.

The new organisation will hold an opening forum on Thursday night.