Page 941 - Week 03 - Thursday, 28 February 2013

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MS BURCH (Brindabella—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Disability, Children and Young People, Minister for the Arts, Minister for Women, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Racing and Gaming) (11.39), in reply: I am pleased today to see that the bill appears to have the support of the chamber. This bill was introduced in May of last year and then reintroduced in November 2013. The purpose of the bill is to amend the Disability Services Act 1991 to allow the minister to approve disability service standards and establish regulation-making power for the act.

The ACT Disability Services Act 1991 was established as part of the first commonwealth and state and territory disability agreement in 1991 when the commonwealth transferred responsibility for the administration of specialist disability accommodation and community support services to state and territory governments. Each jurisdiction was required to establish disability service legislation as part of that transfer. The amendment builds on the work the ACT government is doing to achieve better outcomes for people with a disability in line with Future directions: towards challenge 2014 and the transition, of course, to the national disability insurance scheme.

The ACT government is responsible for regulating specialist disability services, excluding employment services, under the terms of the national disability agreement or the NDA.

This agreement between the Australian and state and territory governments sets the national framework to fund, monitor and support quality services for people with a disability. As part of the NDA, the Australian government and the states and territories agreed to develop a national quality framework for disability services in Australia. The national standards for disability services are part of this framework. Jurisdictions can retain operational autonomy for how the standards will be implemented and will continue to tailor quality systems to respond to local contexts.

In February 2011, the Community and Disability Services Ministers Advisory Council endorsed work to be carried out to revise the national standards. A draft version of the revised standards was released for consultation last year and I would expect that this process will soon be completed.

The ACT government requires funded services to comply with the national standards as part of all funding agreements with disability service providers. Funding agreements also include a clause acknowledging that the national standards are currently being revised and that service providers agree to comply with the requirements of any of the revised national standards. The amendment will embed service standards for people with a disability in law. It is significant for government to develop a best practice model of service for people with a disability in the ACT.

I will now go to some of the key provisions of the bill. Clause 4—section 6(2)(b)—deals with financial assistance for providers of services and sets out that the minister must not approve a grant unless the minister is satisfied that compliance with the standards will be met. Clause 5—section 7(4)—deals with the conditions of grants

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