Quality & Safeguarding

Cross-sector regulation alignment

Team DSC

In the 2021–22 Budget, the Australian government committed to aligning regulation across the NDIS and disability services, aged care, and veterans’ care. The Department of Health, the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission (NDIS Commission), the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, the Department of Social Services, and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs are working together to deliver on this regulatory alignment reform program. A cross-agency taskforce hosted by the Department of Health has been established to lead this work.

What does regulatory alignment mean?

Regulation is established through legislation, rules, guidelines, reporting requirements, and other means of setting expectations for how supports and services should be delivered and monitored. To regulate care and support, the government undertakes a range of functions such as education, making rules, codes, and standards, granting and cancelling registration, handling complaints, and conducting compliance activities. These are all designed to ensure quality of service and safeguards for participants and users of aged care, disability support, and veterans’ care.

Regulatory alignment refers to the process of making regulation more consistent across agencies, sectors, or jurisdictions. Changes can be minor, such as adjusting reporting requirements or major, such as amending the relevant laws to use the same language and approaches.

Why is this important?

The government recognises that similar services are often provided across aged care, disability support, and veterans’ care. While some differences are appropriate, duplication in regulatory requirements may be a barrier to consistent, high-quality, and safe services. We have recently witnessed the difficulty faced by Residential Aged Care providers that support NDIS participants as they were required to become registered NDIS providers. Straddling both the aged care and NDIS regulatory regimes is not only an administrative nightmare but can be confusing for both workers and people receiving services.

This regulatory alignment is intended to benefit service providers, their workers, and the people who receive services. It focusses on enabling best practice regulation to be implemented across sectors, providing consistent quality and safeguard protections for all people receiving support and ensuring that key differences are appropriately considered. It is also expected to give workers increased flexibility and mobility across sectors and reduce duplication in provider reporting where possible. By reducing barriers to providers operating across sectors, it is expected to increase participant choice with more service providers in the market.

Consultation process

The consultations will occur in three stages.

Stage 1 – Workshops were held with providers and peak bodies between 15 and 20 October.

Stage 2 – Release of a consultation paper in late October, consisting of an online survey, written submissions, and workshops for all other stakeholders and the broader community.

Stage 3 – Release of consultation findings in early 2022.

Source: Background Paper Regulatory Alignment Across Care and Support

What can we expect?

The government has already identified a number of shorter-term activities to align care and support sector regulation, including:

  • changing laws to improve how regulators share information and aligning the compliance and enforcement powers between regulators

  • exploring ways to align requirements for behaviour support and restrictive practices

  • trialling combined audits for aged care and the NDIS, reducing costs for providers while still achieving the goals of the audit process

  • reviewing standards to work towards a shared core set of care and support standards

  • assessing quality and safeguarding in grants, procurement, and panels and looking for ways to align requirements and processes

  • reviewing the regulatory frameworks and looking for ways to align registration and accreditation processes to make it easier for providers to expand across the care and support sectors

  • a common Code of Conduct to establish shared foundational obligations for providers and workers

  • developing a Care and Support Worker Screening Check to screen workers to avoid risk of harm while making it easier for workers to work across the aged care, veterans’ care, and disability support sectors

Among the key deliverables is the development of a Roadmap for medium- to longer-term regulatory alignment. The government says that the options for that alignment are open, with no set plan for what is to be achieved. Options might include, for example, aligning approval or registration systems for providers or be as simple as streamlining the reporting of information to multiple regulators – e.g. reporting once to meet multiple obligations.

What else is in the pipeline for NDIS quality and safeguarding regulation?

There are a number of reviews that will also inform future reforms of the NDIS.

NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Framework Review

The NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Framework Review will identify any changes and adjustments to the Framework to address quality and safeguarding gaps and identify longer-term reforms to the Framework. This is designed to ensure it is fit for purpose under current market and NDIS policy conditions and will inform any future regulatory reforms that may be required.

The Robertson Review

The Robertson Review was commissioned by the NDIS Commission to examine the Commission’s oversight and the death of Ann-Marie Smith. Most of the recommendations have been addressed, with further consideration of the recommendations being undertaken to inform potential future reforms.

Joint Standing Committee into the NDIS

The Joint Standing Committee into the NDIS has undertaken a number of inquiries in relation to the overall implementation and performance of the NDIS along with individual cases. The government has responded to several final reports from the Committee that outline activities and actions that have been, are being, or will be undertaken to respond to these inquiries. One inquiry focus was on the NDIS Commission, with the final report yet to be tabled.

Royal Commission

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability was established in April 2019 and will deliver its final report to the government by 29 September 2023. Recommendations from the Royal Commission will be considered by the government following receipt of the final report.

Where can I get more information?

Read the Background Paper.

Check out the NDIS Commission’s webpage.

Check out the Department of Health’s webpage, which includes resources and further details about the consultation process.