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Q&S Updates Galore

In the first update for 2022 we cover new leadership at the Commission, a helpful COVID resource plus new practice standards and more...

By Jessica Quilty

Updated 15 Apr 202417 Feb 2022

Welcome to the first edition of quality and safeguarding (Q&S) updates for 2022. Here’s what you need to know.

New Leadership at the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission

Tracey Mackey has commenced as the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commissioner and Sian Leathem as the Complaints Commissioner. You can find out more about the new commissioner and leadership team on the NDIS Commission’s website.

COVID-19 Q&S Obligations

DSC has developed this resource to support providers in meeting some of the key Q&S requirements during the peak period of the COVID-19 Omicron variant. It focuses on your reporting requirements and information relevant to restrictive practices and emergency and disaster management.

Engaging Contractors

Registered NDIS providers who contract third parties to deliver supports on their behalf have to consider additional compliance obligations. Specifically, registered NDIS providers engaging contractors will need to

  • Identify each risk assessed role the contracted personnel will engage in.
  • Enter into an appropriate contract with the contractor.
  • Take steps to satisfy themselves that all contracted personnel have an NDIS worker screening clearance.

This article explores the requirements for an appropriate contract in more detail.

Reporting Vaccination Status

Registered NDIS providers who provide intensive disability support services are now required to report on the vaccination status of their workers as at certain dates during the period from 10 December 2021 to 25 February 2022. Information needs to be submitted about workers who are required to be fully vaccinated to deliver NDIS supports or services in accordance with state and territory public health orders.

This requirement falls under a condition of registration that allows the NDIS Commissioner to request specific information from registered NDIS providers.

The information has been requested to assist the NDIS Commission to

  • Monitor registered NDIS provider compliance with conditions of registration under section 73F(2)(a) of the NDIS Act, being compliance with public health orders, and
  • Manage the risks to NDIS participants arising from unvaccinated workers.

quick reference guide can assist providers in submitting the required information through the NDIS Commission portal.

NDIS Commission Data on the Unauthorised Use of Restrictive Practices

On 2 September 2021, the NDIS Commission released the Activity Report for the 12 months through 30 June 2021. The report showed that NDIS providers had notified the NDIS Commission of more than 1,000,000 unauthorised uses of restrictive practices (URPs) in relation to NDIS participants. A data validation exercise has corrected this number to 994,595. The Acting Commissioner has now published an analysis of the NDIS Commission's data relating to URPs and behaviour support plans. The priority actions for the Commission outlined in the report include

  1. Continuing to target current compliance activity on participant outcomes.
  2. Increasing focus on compliance as soon as notifications of URPs are received.
  3. Continuing engagement with states and territories on authorisation processes.
  4. Increasing the number and competence of behaviour support practitioners.
  5. Reviewing the interaction of the regulatory requirements in relation to behaviour support and reportable incidents.
  6. Building the capability of the workforce that is implementing restrictive practices.

DSC will provide a more in-depth analysis of the full report soon.

Important Changes to Suitability of Behaviour Support Practitioners

The Senior Practitioner, Jeffrey Chan, recently sent out a letter to specialist behaviour support providers, reminding them that the NDIS Commission is transitioning from provisional suitability to a suitability determination for practitioners. Amongst other things, the letter advises providers that

  • Section 29 notifications of behaviour support practitioners have been extended to 30 June 2022.
  • After 30 June 2022, provisional suitability will no longer be granted, which means that individuals who wish to deliver behaviour support under the NDIS who have not already been considered suitable will need to apply through the NDIS Commission Application Portal.
  • Individuals can now apply to be considered suitable as an NDIS behaviour support practitioner before they are engaged by a registered behaviour support provider. This does not mean that the individual can then deliver behaviour support under the NDIS. Rather, it means an individual can apply as an NDIS behaviour support practitioner with an NDIS provider and avoid subsequent delays in being considered suitable after they have been engaged by the provider.

Supporting Effective Communication

The NDIS Commission has released a free online training module for supporting effective communication. It is made up of three topics that provide information, scenarios, tips, and practical actions that can be taken to reduce risks associated with the communication support needs of people with disability. The Supporting Effective Communication module looks at

  • What effective communication looks like and how it supports choice and control.
  • The different ways in which we communicate.
  • Times when effective communication is very important.
  • How workers can support effective communication with people with disability.

 The module includes a downloadable Supporting Effective Communication Checklist and links to useful resources. A factsheet about the module and an easy read factsheet are available to download.

Compliance and Enforcement Policy Suite

The NDIS Commission has recently published a policy suite for responding to non-compliance. The overarching Compliance and Enforcement Policy is said to provide a broad overview of its compliance and enforcement functions, strategies, and tools. The more specific policies provide guidance on the NDIS Commission’s approach to the use of particular compliance and enforcement tools. The policies available on the Commission’s website include:

  • Compliance Notices Policy
  • Infringement Notice Policy
  • Enforceable Undertakings Policy
  • Injunctions Policy
  • Civil Penalties Policy
  • Vary, Suspend or Revoke Registration Policy

NDIS Commission Webinar

In a November 2021 webinar, Acting Commissioner Sam Taylor, Senior Practitioner Jeff Chan, and Professor Julian Trollor discussed some of the actions the NDIS Commission has taken in response to the Scoping review of causes and contributors to deaths of people with disability in Australia. The conversation noted the development of new resources to support the provision of quality, safe services, including amendments to the Practice Standards (see below), Practice Alerts on Comprehensive HealthLifestyle Risk Factors, and Oral Health, the Worker Orientation Module Supporting effective communication, and Practice review guidance materials.

New Practice Standards

As you may have heard, the NDIS Commission made changes to the NDIS Practice Standards in late 2021. The transitional time for the new NDIS Practice Standards is now complete, and the new requirements are in force. Many existing standards have been updated, with three new standards developed for

  • Mealtime management
  • Severe dysphagia management
  • Emergency and disaster management

In case you missed it, you can learn more about the changes in this webinar, including a downloadable gap analysis that marks the changes to the standards. You can also check out Paula and Rob’s popular new workshop, which takes you through the Emergency Management and Disaster Management requirements.

NDIS Q&S Sector Readiness Project for Psychosocial Providers

The Western Australian Association for Mental Health (WAAMH) has been funded by the WA Department of Communities to support the capacity building of psychosocial disability supports service providers to operate in compliance with NDIS Commission requirements. The WAAMH team continue to provide lots of resources to support providers in their compliance journey. Check out their website and resources for more information.

Aged and Community Services Australia NDIS Support Hub Winds Up

The Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) Hub was developed to support Residential Aged Care providers delivering services to NDIS participants to meet the requirements of NDIS registration. As of 31 December 2021, this project has ended, and the ACSA support line and online enquiry function are no longer available. All future questions should be directed to the NDIS Commission. The resources on the Support Hub will remain in place but no longer be updated or reviewed for accuracy.

 Disability Royal Commission

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability (Disability Royal Commission) has published its fifth progress report, which is now available on the commission’s website.

Late in 2021, the Royal Commission held Public hearing 20: Preventing and responding to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation in disability services (two case studies). It focussed on two case studies relating to the experiences of people with disability who received accommodation and support services from Life Without Barriers.

The Royal Commission’s 2022 schedule to date is as follows:

  • 23–25 February: Public hearing 21.1: Virtual hearing – The experience of people with disability engaging with Disability Employment Services 
  • 28 March–1 April: Public hearing 17.2: Hobart – The experiences of women and girls with disability with a particular focus on family, domestic and sexual violence (Part 2)
  • 11–13 April: Public hearing 21.2: TBC – The experience of people with disability working in Australian Disability Enterprises
  • 2–6 May: Public hearing 22: Sydney – Lived experience of people with disability subject to guardianship arrangements and substituted decision making

In other news, the board of Australia’s peak disability rights and advocacy organisation, People with Disability Australia (PWDA), is calling on the Disability Royal Commission to launch an emergency public hearing into the impact of the COVID-19 Omicron crisis on people with disability.

In an open letter to the Chair, The Hon. Ronald Sackville, PWDA urges the Royal Commission to convene a hearing into “the failure of Australian governments and responsible parties to adequately keep people with disability safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and specifically during the Omicron wave”. A copy of the letter can be found here.

That’s a wrap for this month. If you have any Q&S topics you’d like us to explore further in this newsletter in 2022, we’d love to hear from you by reply mail.

Authors

Jessica Quilty

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