Page 4900 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 27 November 2018

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Further, the role of the ACT government in providing disability accommodation has changed. Therefore, restricting visitable places to providers of care run by the government or in receipt of ACT funding was no longer valid.

The act also specifically excludes private residences but given that under the NDIS many clients receive care in private residences the Official Visitor must be able to access these premises to ensure quality of care. The bill clarifies this point. However, the bill still exempts private homes where a client lives and receives services from someone other than a specialist support provider, such as family or friends.

I was concerned that the written request for the Official Visitor to not attend a visitable place might be open to some risk such as forgery or difficulty for some clients who may not be in a position to write. Officials who briefed me on the bill informed me that official visitors know their clients very well and are trained and experienced enough to act on any possibility of this type of risk. I was also assured that various provisions are put in place to ensure that clients’ best interests are protected. However, close monitoring of this provision will be necessary, and a further refinement of this process may be appropriate in the future.

Second, the bill makes changes to the register of visitable places. When the ACT provided supported accommodation services the register of visitable places was easy to manage because information systems were consistent and data was kept centrally. However, as private providers now deliver accommodation services, it has become necessary to amend the act to ensure the register records data more accurately. This is done by requiring providers to provide certain information to the director-general.

Additional information that will now be recorded includes: the address of the visitable place; the name of each person receiving services at that location; the list of specialist disability service providers operating at that location; and, for companies providing specialist disability services, the contact details for service providers operating at the location. This information must be provided to the Official Visitor and the Public Advocate to assist them in their roles.

I raised some concern about privacy, and I was assured that the addresses of visitable places will be made available to emergency services and to clients and their guardians only when the director-general considers it necessary and appropriate. The reasoning behind providing the information to emergency services is fairly obvious: in the event of an emergency and the client requiring emergency care. Disclosing the address of a visitable place to clients is appropriate in the event that they wish to ensure a provider they intend to use is effectively on the books as a visitable place and that the Official Visitor is aware of the location and its clients.

Third, the bill changes the way the Official Visitor gives notice of visits. The act currently requires a fixed period of 24 hours’ notice, and the bill amends this to reasonable notice. Whilst there is always an open-to-interpretation risk when using the word “reasonable”, this provides additional flexibility for the Official Visitor to carry

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