Page 4457 - Week 12 - Tuesday, 30 October 2018

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individuals with a disability as well as ensuring that people with disability and their families and carers are able to raise concerns about the services they receive.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ms Hargreaves and Ms Durkin, as well as former official visitor Sue Salthouse, for their ongoing commitment to the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable Canberrans and for their input into the amendments included in this bill. The amendments are primarily made in response to changes in the service environment due to the introduction of the national disability insurance scheme, or NDIS, and recommendations from the official visitors themselves.

There have been significant changes to the way disability services are delivered in the ACT since the role of the official visitors for disability services was established. Specifically, the transition of disability accommodation management to non-government providers under the NDIS has changed the way the Disability Services Act 1991 operates. This has impacted on the official visitors’ ability to carry out their important safeguarding role.

In order to ensure that the official visitors can continue to deliver on the intent of the official visitors scheme, the bill contains three amendments to the Disability Services Act 1991. All are aimed at supporting the official visitors for disability services to continue their work safeguarding the rights and dignity of vulnerable people in the current service context.

The first amendment updates the definition of a visitable place. Historically, any accommodation service run by the ACT government or in receipt of funding under the act was recognised as disability accommodation. Due to the NDIS funding arrangements now in operation, this means of identifying a visitable place is redundant.

Another problem arising from the current definition relates to the meaning of a private home. Previously, private homes were specifically precluded from the definition of a visitable place under the act. In the current environment, however, it is not uncommon for a person with a disability to reside in a tenanted property and receive support services therein. In this situation, as the act currently operates, the place would be defined as a private home and therefore precluded from the definition of a visitable place.

The risk in this case is that a provider, through acting as both tenancy manager and service provider, is able to exercise whole-of-life control over a vulnerable person who may experience any number of barriers to seeking external support and advocacy. The importance of official visitor oversight in this situation is clear. Other examples of circumstances where oversight is warranted include where there is a tenancy manager content to leave all interaction with a person with disability to the service provider or the person is in a respite service.

This bill amends the definition of a visitable place to allow the official visitors to visit people in such situations, while precluding private homes where people with disability reside with family or where services are provided by other than specialist disability support providers. These would usually be family or friends.

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