Page 4481 - Week 12 - Tuesday, 30 October 2018

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In the current reporting period, the official visitors undertook 204 visits to 144 visitable places and saw 551 residents, exceeding the requirement of one annual visit per place. The official visitor scheme is part of a suite of important oversight and quality assurance mechanisms designed to provide rigorous scrutiny of and support to services, with the goal of ensuring the best possible outcomes for people with disability in the ACT.

These include the formal oversight functions of the Public Advocate, the Disability and Community Services Commissioner and the Human Services Registrar, and informal mechanisms such as advocacy and support through the office for disability and other community advocacy bodies like ADACAS and Advocacy for Inclusion.

The annual report indicates that this network of supports continues to be an effective approach to supporting and protecting vulnerable Canberrans. I note that the official visitor is the only means by which some people who may not be able to make a complaint about poor service receive regular visits from people dedicated to ensuring the individual wellbeing and quality of service for each person with disability living in a visitable place providing disability accommodation.

The report noted that few referrals have been received by the official visitor about the care of people with disabilities in group houses. The Community Services Directorate is working on a communications strategy to boost the profile of the official visitors. I would like to commend the official visitors for undertaking a rolling program of visits to service providers to increase awareness of their role.

The report also notes a positive change as a result of the transition to the NDIS, with people with disability receiving increased supports and better access to the community. In terms of challenges, the official visitor annual report points to particular concerns for younger people living in aged-care facilities. The report also points to complexities over what now constitutes a visitable place and how, in the face of ongoing transitional changes in the disability sector, we can ensure that knowledge of and access to the official visitor is maintained and promoted to people who are considered to be entitled persons.

Legislative amendments to the Disability Services Act 1991 were introduced today to address a number of these issues. The ongoing work of the official visitors for disability services is being supported by the Human Services Registrar, including collaboration with them on how best to address the issues raised in the report. As noted in the annual report, a number of matters raised during the year were addressed with service providers or in collaboration with other oversight bodies. Work is ongoing in relation to administrative and systemic matters, including in the context of implementing the review of the official visitor scheme.

I would like to commend the official visitors on their commitment to ensuring that vulnerable people in Canberra have a voice for their concerns and for the official visitors’ actions to remedy systemic issues that affect people with a disability.

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