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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 2 August 2018) . . Page.. 2620 ..

The UN International Children’s Emergency Fund’s 2013 The State of the World’s Children Report noted that children with a disability are three to four times more likely to be subjected to violence than children without disability. The report also noted that children who may already be suffering stigma and isolation have also been found to be more likely to suffer physical abuse.

These are sad, sobering facts. The functions and oversight of the senior practitioner in the ACT will have a very important role in addressing and preventing abuse and misuse of restrictive practices, and protecting vulnerable children and adults. I hope, in time, that the monitoring and safeguards afforded by this legislation will be expanded to include aged care, another cohort who, unfortunately, we know are vulnerable to abuse and restrictive practices.

As well as the positive aspects of this bill, I would also like to acknowledge the impact it will have on the disability sector and care providers and others. It will be imperative that they are given ample opportunity and support to understand and implement the legislation. I note that sectors affected by the bill are largely supportive of establishing the office of senior practitioner and of the need to reduce and eliminate restrictive practices in the provision of care.

I am encouraged by the collaborative and consultative approach that the newly appointed senior practitioner has demonstrated in carrying out the role so far. Indeed the education and consultation functions of the office will be critical in ascertaining a true picture of how restrictive practices are used in the ACT, and working with all stakeholders to reduce their use. It is also an important step to comply with the next phase of the national disability insurance scheme, with the establishment of the NDIS quality and safeguards commission in the ACT from 1 July 2019.

I would also like to acknowledge some concerns about the legislation which have been raised by representatives of disability service providers, in relation to compliance with the offences that will not come into effect until the middle of next year, most prominently, the need to take into account carers’ abilities to respond to emergency situations, and situations that compromise the safety of the person who is subject to restrictive practices or the people around them. Importantly, there was concern that disability service providers may stop providing support to people with problem behaviours, as an—I am absolutely sure—unintended consequence of the penalties imposed by the legislation.

Indeed the senior practitioner indicated when I met with her that, based on her extensive experience in the field and her consultations that have started and will continue over the coming months, it was likely that she would seek to amend the legislation ahead of its full impact next year. I support such a review, and I anticipate that it will take into account the feedback from the consultations undertaken by the senior practitioner to inform development of policy, standards and guidelines to promote best practice, lead sector capacity building and improve awareness to minimise the use of restrictive practices.

I note, as I said, the concerns of the sector and the canvassing that the senior practitioner is doing. At this stage I am confident that a review will occur before the legislation is fully in operation.

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