Member E-Blast: New CEO for National Disability Insurance Agency

Martin Hoffman has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of the NDIA.  Mr Hoffman has been both a Commonwealth Deputy Secretary and Secretary of the NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation. He also recently helped create Services Australia, previously the Department of Human Services.  Mr Hoffman also has experience in the private sector, having been Chief Executive of Ninemsn and other senior roles at Fairfax Media, Optus and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research.

In announcing Mr Hoffman’s appointment, the Commonwealth Government gave a commitment to resolving issues with delays in participants accessing their plans with an announcement of an additional 800 public service staff to assist with NDIS operations. About 500,000 Australians with disability are expected to benefit from the NDIS in the next five years, with people continuing to transition from state and territory programs into the Scheme.

Mr Hoffman has been appointed for a three-year term and will commence on 4 November.

Local Group Convenor Meets Prime Minister to Discuss NDIS

Matt McCracken with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for NDIS and Government Services Stuart Robert
Matt McCracken with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for NDIS and Government Services Stuart Robert

QDNs Local Group Convener in Caboolture and QDN Appointed Board Director, Matt McCracken, was one of four special guests invited to meet with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for the NDIS and Government Services Stuart Robert to discuss the NDIS on Tuesday 8 October, in Caboolture.

The focus of this meeting was to discuss NDIS challenges and areas where the NDIS can improve.  Matt said there was discussion around the difficulties in accessing the scheme, accessible, affordable housing, people’s understanding about activating and managing their plans and the struggles people have with finding assistance to guide them and support them to achieve their goals.

Matt talked about the key role that people with disability need to play in getting the NDIS right for participants and the sector more broadly and the importance of lived experience of disability, ‘nothing about us without us.’ Matt also raised key issues that Queenslanders with disability have been sharing with QDN about what they need, including the opportunity to review plan information before the plan is final, more streamlined approaches to reviews when things aren’t right in people’s plans and the need for quality support coordination. Another area that Matt discussed was support, information and guidance to be able to activate NDIS plans, active support so people know how they can achieve their goals and the impacts this has on participants and their families who are still struggling to understand the scheme and where to find supports.

Matt said the Prime Minister and the NDIS Minister were both responsive to the discussion and took everything on board. QDN looks forward to continuing to work with Prime Minister Morrison, Minster Robert and the Commonwealth Government in delivering an NDIS that works for people with disability and their families, carer givers and the sector and achieves the aims of the scheme and the change in people’s lives it was designed to deliver.

Reports to the CRPD Committee on Australia’s lack of Accessible Housing

The following is taken from an update from ANUHD (Australian Network on Universal Housing Design) on Australia’s obligations regarding accessible housing:

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD Committee) (website located here: https://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/crpd/pages/crpdindex.aspx) is the body of independent experts which monitors implementation of the Convention by State Parties.

The CRPD Committee provided a List of Issues for Australia (List of Issues located here: https://aduhdblog.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/crpd_c_aus_qpr_2-3_e.pdf). With respect to the National Dialogue on Universal Housing Design’s Strategic Plan (Plan located here: https://www.dss.gov.au/our-responsibilities/disability-and-carers/program-services/government-international/national-disability-strategy-initiatives/livable-housing-design/national-dialogue-on-universal-housing-design-strategic-plan) and their 2020 target as a commitment within the 2010-2020 National Disability Strategy, they asked:

“Please provide information on efforts to ensure an adequate supply of accessible housing and on whether the 2020 targets for universal housing design are being met?” (Issue 11)

Report from the Australian Government (located here: https://aduhdblog.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/ag-reponse-final-sep18.pdf)

In summary:

  • In February 2011, COAG agreed to an aspirational target within the ND Strategy that all new homes meet agreed universal accessibility design standards by 2020.
  • State and territory governments have made progress towards increasing the stock of universal and accessible housing, particularly in relation to public and social housing. For example, the Northern Territory (NT) Department of Housing and Community Development’s Urban Public Housing Design Guidelines require all new urban public housing to meet the silver level rating under the Guidelines*
  • In October 2017, the BMF instructed the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) to undertake a national Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) for the inclusion of minimum accessibility standards for housing in the NCC, in consultation with Disability Ministers.

*The report cites the least populated area in Australia, which built less 88 public housing dwellings in 2016-7, as an example of their progress to date.

Report from the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (located here: https://aduhdblog.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/ag-reponse-final-sep18.pdf)

In summary:

  • The AHRC remains concerned that the 2020 targets for universal housing design will not be met. The use of voluntary measures to increase the supply of accessible private housing have been ineffective.
  • A regulatory intervention is needed to introduce a mandatory minimum standard of accessibility for all private dwellings in Australia. An amendment of the National Construction Code (NCC) is the most viable way to introduce this standard.
  • The Australian Building Codes Board (ACBC) is undertaking a Regulatory Impact Assessment of options to introduce a minimum accessibility standard for housing in the NCC. The AHRC com has recommended that the ABCB be guided by Australia’s commitments under the CRPD in considering the minimum standard of accessibility for housing. Ongoing consultations should also be held with people with disability and their representative organisations.

The AHRC recommended that:

The Australian Government introduce a mandatory minimum standard of accessibility in the National Construction Code for all private dwellings in Australia.

Australian Civil Society Report (located here: https://aduhdblog.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/crpd-shadow-report-2019-english-pdf.pdf)

(The perspective of people with disability in relation to Australia’s compliance with its obligations under the CRPD). In summary:

  • There are no mandated national access requirements for housing.
  • The Livable Housing Design Guidelines provide aspirational targets for all new homes to be of an agreed livable housing design standard by 2020. It is estimated that only 5% of new housing construction will meet the standards by 2020.
  • Regulatory intervention through the National Construction Code is required to achieve change.

The Shadow report recommended that: Australia amend the National Construction Code to mandate minimum access features for all new and extensively modified housing.

The Disability Royal Commission: Townsville Community Forum & Brisbane First Public Sitting

The first community forum of the Disability Royal Commission (full name Royal Commission into Violence Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability) was held in Townsville on the 9 September 2019. Some QDN members from Townsville were in attendance. Media presence was strong; and the Queensland Minister for Communities and Minister for Disability Services and Seniors, Coralee O’Rourke, was present in the audience. Stories shared focused on exclusion in the education system, including discrimination, exclusion, violence and abuse of children with disability in schools. Stories of poor treatment of people with disability and lack of respect, and a lack of transportation options and inadequate transport funding available through the NDIS. Further issues regarding the NDIS concerned issues around access, planning, funding and support provision. People also raised issues of poor treatment within open employment and DES services.

The first Public Sitting of the Disability Royal Commission was held in Brisbane on Monday 16 September. This marked an historic moment in time after many years of advocacy to get a Royal Commission so the voices of people with disability could be heard in relation to their experiences of violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect.  Many people with disability were in attendance. This event officially opened the Royal Commission and provided an opportunity for the Commissioners to be formally introduced and allowed everyone to hear about how the Commission will operate and what it hopes to achieve.

The Commission will ensure that people with disability who require support to engage with the Disability Commission and to tell their stories will receive that support. The budget provided to the Commission includes funds that are to be used to support people with disability. In addition to giving evidence at public hearings there will be many ways for people with disability to engage with the Commission.

Important links:

  • Click here to view the webcast of the First Public Hearing of the Disability Royal Commission at the following website.
  • Legal supportNational Legal Aid (NLA) together with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) will provide a free, national legal advisory service for people engaging with the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. The legal advisory service will be an independent, trauma informed and culturally safe service that will be delivered nationally. You can contact NLA on 1800 771 800 between 8.30am-5pm AEST. An interim website will be available at legalaid.nsw.gov.au from Monday 16 September.
  • Support during the Disability Royal Commission – Advocacy services funded under the National Disability Advocacy Program (NDAP) have been given additional funding to support people with disability during the Disability Royal Commission. Information about the program can be found at National Disability Advocacy Program, along with a Disability Advocacy Finder tool to help you locate a service provider near you.  Alternatively, you can contact the Disability Royal Commission Hotline on 1800 517 199 or at the following email DRCEnquiries@royalcommission.gov.au to assist you to find your nearest advocacy service.

eBlast: Summary of First Hearing of Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability held on Monday 16 September 2019

The first Public Sitting of the Disability Royal Commission was held in Brisbane on Monday 16 September. This marked an historic moment in time after many years of advocacy to get a Royal Commission so the voices of people with disability could be heard in relation to their experiences of violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect. The following provides a summary of the meeting:

 “We have to ensure that the voices of people who have been unheard, can finally be heard”.

“The Royal Commission is an opportunity to achieve transformational change. It is a very monumental challenge but one that should be embraced”.

– The honourable Ronald Sackville AO, QC, Disability Royal Commission Chair

The Hon Ronald Sackville AO QC has been appointed as Chair of the Royal Commission. Mr Sackville will be supported by six other Royal Commissioners:

  • The Hon Roslyn Atkinson AO
  • Ms Barbara Bennett PSM
  • Dr Rhonda Galbally AC
  • Ms Andrea Mason OAM
  • Alastair McEwin AM
  • The Hon John Ryan AM

Acknowledgement of Country – by Andrea Jane Mason OAM

Introduction

It was acknowledged that best practice and decision making includes people with disability. A focus of the Royal Commission will be on what the Australian Government, institutions and communities can do to prevent abuse, neglect and violence of people with disability.

Terms of Reference

The Terms of Reference were read out. The Commissioners will look at all of the groups that provide services to people with disability. The Commissioners will find out how these groups can protect people with disability. The Commissioners will also look at how society can be better for people with disability and to understand the best ways of working with and supporting people with disability and to make our society more inclusive. This includes protecting everyone’s right to live a safe and independent life. The Commissioners can look at all areas.

Click here to view the Letters Patent that outlines the Commission’s terms of reference.

For an easy read version please click here.

Opening Statements

Opening statements were made by Andrea Jane Mason OAM, Honorable Ronald Sackville AO, QC Disability Royal Commission Chair and Alastair McEwan AM

Key points:

  • First Nations people are twice as likely to have a disability as other Australians;
  • The Terms of Reference have been finalised. To date, the Commission a received 65 submissions from the public consultation with 25% from people with disability, carers and family members. The Terms of Reference are extremely broad and cover all settings and individual experiences. They have a rights based focus including the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disability including civil, political, and cultural rights;
  • The purpose of the Royal Commission is to promote an inclusive society and the rights of people with disability to be educated in general education, access work opportunities, free health care services, access to justice, and choice as to where they wish to live within the community;
  • The Royal Commission will be accessible for all including strategies to reach out to people in rural and remote areas, those in closed settings, regardless of age, sex, gender identity, inter-sex, ethnic origin or race;
  • The Royal Commission acknowledges the international disability mantra – nothing about us without us.

The purpose of public hearings were explained. They are to:

  1. Allow people with disability to tell their story;
  2. Expose examples of abuse, violence and neglect;
  3. Expose systemic failures;
  4. Safeguard against wrongful conduct;
  5. Promote improvements to policy; and
  6. Explore measures the community can take.

There has been an amendment made to the Royal Commission Act 1902 so the Royal Commission can hold private sessions for people with disability to tell their story. These sessions will not be under oath, and will not be included in official records, but the information will be used to inform the work of the Commissioners. People with disability can give evidence in public settings if they choose.

Rebecca Treston QC Senior Counsel Assisting made introductions of counsel and gave the following definitions of key terms:

  1. Violence & abuse is termed as – assault, restrictive practices including physical and chemical, humiliation and harassment;
  2. Neglect is termed as physical, emotional, passive and wilful deprivation of food, water, shelter, access to mobility, education, medical care and treatment;
  3. Exploitation is termed as improper use of another person’s labour, resources, employment and demanding sex or sexual activity as payment.

Submissions to the Disability Royal Commission opened on the 29 July 2019. There is a guide on the website in multiple formats on how to make submissions.  To view the guide click here.

Themes/Domains

The Commission will also have focused hearings around the following domains:

  • Homes and living, relationships, education, learning, health, justice, self-determination, autonomy, right to the dignity of risk, economic participation;
  • Next submissions have the focus of the domains of education, learning, homes and living – and to include Restrictive Practices, exclusion of students, and housing.

Advocacy & Support during the Disability Royal Commission

Advocacy services funded under the National Disability Advocacy Program (NDAP) have been given additional funding to support people with disability during the Disability Royal Commission. Information about the program can be found at National Disability Advocacy Program (click here to view) along with a Disability Advocacy Finder tool to help you locate a service provider near you (click here to view).  Alternatively, you can contact the Disability Royal Commission Hotline on 1800 517 199 or email DRCEnquiries@royalcommission.gov.au and they can assist you to find your nearest advocacy service.

National Counselling and Referral Services

A free national telephone counselling and referral service for people who are affected by the Disability Royal Commission will be available from October 2019.

If you need counselling right now, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 at any time, 24 hours a day.

How to Get Involved:

  • You can call the Royal Commission on:1800 771 800;
  • Click here to sign up to the Commission’s website for updates;
  • Click here to view the draft accessibility strategy;
  • Workshops will be offered and regular community forums.

Other Useful Links:

  • Click here to view the webcast of the First Public Hearing of the Disability Royal Commission;
  • Legal support – National Legal Aid (NLA) together with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) will provide a free, national legal advisory service for people engaging with the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. The legal advisory service will be an independent, trauma informed and culturally safe service that will be delivered nationally. You can contact NLA on 1800 771 800 between 8.30am-5pm AEST. An interim website will be available at legalaid.nsw.gov.au from Monday 16 September.

Member update: 2019 Review of the NDIS Act and NDIS Participant Service Guarantee

Background

The Australian Government has asked for an independent review of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 (the NDIS Act). This will also include a review of the NDIS Rules. A Participant Service Guarantee will be developed as part of this review.

While many participants have had positive experiences with the NDIS, other people with disability have experienced frustrations. NDIS participants, their families and supporters, advocacy groups and providers of disability services have told the government that some aspects of the NDIS do not meet their expectations. For example, how long it takes to get an NDIS plan, the planning process, getting a plan review and decisions made about their plans.

The review will focus on opportunities to make the NDIS process simpler and more straight forward.  It will also remove barriers to positive participant and provider experiences with the NDIS.

The review will consider what changes may need to be made to the NDIS legislation to support the Guarantee and set new standards into law.  This may involve amendments to the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 (the NDIS Act) and the NDIS Rules, but will not change the design or intent of the NDIS.

The Australian Government has appointed an independent expert, Mr David Tune AO PSM, to lead the review.

The review’s recommendations are due to be delivered to the Government by the end of 2019, to support the roll out of the Participant Service Guarantee on 1 July 2020.

How can you be involved?

It is important that people with disability, as well as their families and supporters get involved and share their experiences with the NDIS so we can advocate for change. so we can fix the problems.

You can have your say by:

  • Contacting QDN to inform our submission.
  • Completing a survey online. This will be available from 9 September. QDN will keep members updated.
  • Making a written submission.
  • Attending a face-to-face community workshop in Queensland.

The survey and a discussion paper will be available in a variety of languages online so you can print them out, fill them in, and send them back to NDISConsultations@dss.gov.au or post them to:

NDIS Consultations
Department of Social Services
GPO Box 9820
Canberra ACT 2601

More information and resources will be available over the next couple of weeks, QDN will keep members updated. Responses to the survey and the discussion paper will be accepted until the end of October.

If you choose to fill out the survey, you will be asked questions about your experience with the NDIS. For example:

  • The time it took to get a plan or review
  • How you felt about the decisions made during your plan or review
  • Whether you received enough information
  • How decisions were communicated to you

The face to face consultations will include questions on specific issues. For example, some participants, such as those needing assistive technology, home modifications, specialist disability accommodation, and other services requiring a quote or further approval as part of their NDIS plan have experienced particular frustrations.

The consultations will help find solutions to those issues.

If you choose to make a written submission, you can read the discussion paper and then tell us about any aspect of the NDIS that you have concerns about.

All responses – survey, face to face and written submissions – will be considered as part of the NDIS Act review and the development of the Participant Service Guarantee. No personal information is being sought as part of this consultation process.

Important resources:

Download the discussion paper here: https://engage.dss.gov.au/review-of-the-ndis-act-and-the-new-ndis-participant-service-guarantee/ndis-act-review-and-ndis-participant-service-guarantee-discussion-paper/

Find further information about the survey here (survey available from 9 September):  https://engage.dss.gov.au/review-of-the-ndis-act-and-the-new-ndis-participant-service-guarantee/ndis-participant-guarantee-survey/

Find out how to make a submission here: https://engage.dss.gov.au/review-of-the-ndis-act-and-the-new-ndis-participant-service-guarantee/making-a-written-submission/

Register for a workshop in:

Brisbane: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/brisbane-qld-ndis-participant-service-guarantee-community-workshop-tickets-70240710857

Cairns: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/cairns-qld-ndis-participant-service-guarantee-community-workshop-tickets-70225033967

Find information on workshops for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: https://engage.dss.gov.au/review-of-the-ndis-act-and-the-new-ndis-participant-service-guarantee/workshops-for-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-peoples/

Member E-Blast: Royal Commission Update

QDN provides the following information to members as part of our aim of keeping members regularly informed on the Royal Commission.

Community Forums

The Royal Commission has announced its first forum open to the community.  The Townsville forum on 9 September will be the first of a number of forums to be held around the country to allow people to hear about the work of the Royal Commission and to share their stories and ideas.  Registration is via the Community Forums page of the Royal Commission website, where further forums will be added once confirmed.

Anyone can attend a community forum but for planning purposes you will need to pre-register to attend.  QDN encourages members in the Townsville area to attend this forum. All engagement events including community forums will be fully accessible, including Auslan Interpreters and live captioning on the day.

Draft Accessibility Strategy

The Royal Commission recently released a Draft Accessibility Strategy. The draft strategy outlines the principles which will guide the commission in its engagement with people with disability. Feedback is sought via the Royal Commission website until 13 September. QDN is putting in a submission to this, if you would like to give your views on how the Royal Commission should be accessible, please contact Karin Swift on 1300 363 783.

Penalties for preventing witnesses from appearing

Significant penalties apply for impeding (preventing) people from contributing to royal commissions. An article by Hall & Wilcox Lawyers highlights legislation on preventing witnesses from giving evidence and dismissing employees for having given evidence.

E-Blast: Royal Commission Update: Managing Conflicts of Interest

There have been calls for two of the Commissioners from the Royal Commission to stand down. This is due to perceptions of conflicts of interest because in their previous roles of leadership they provided services to people with disability. The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability has released information about how the Royal Commission will manage conflicts of interest.

  • A conflict of interest is a situation in which a person or organisation is involved in multiple interests, financial or otherwise, and serving one interest could involve working against another. Apprehension of bias is where an observer might reasonably believe that a person in power may not act in ways that are impartial and unprejudiced in relation to the matter at hand.

In summary the Royal Commission states:

  • There are well established mechanisms to enable Royal Commissions to handle perceptions of conflicts of interest or apprehensions of bias.
  • In general, no more than three or four Commissioners will participate in any given public hearing.
  • The Chair will not authorise a Commissioner to participate in a public hearing if that Commissioner’s participation would give rise to a reasonable perception of a conflict of interest or a reasonable apprehension of bias.
  • A Commissioner who does not participate in a particular public hearing will not participate in the preparation of any report produced as a direct result of that hearing.

To be effective, it is essential that the Royal Commission has the confidence of the public, and of the disability community in particular, that it will discharge its responsibilities independently, thoroughly and transparently.

The Disability Royal Commission (DRC) has placed on its website a summary of the declarations made by each of the six Commissioners as to matters that might give rise to a real or perceived conflict of interest during the life of the Commission.

QDN will keep members updated on all matters related to The Royal Commission. For more information on how conflicts of interest will be handled, see: https://disability.royalcommission.gov.au/about/Pages/management-of-conflicts-of-interest.aspx

Member Update: Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Exploitation and Neglect

Royal Commission Submissions Open

The Royal Commission is now inviting people with disability, their family members and supporters and other interested members of the public and institutions to make submissions. A submission form has been created to assist, and submissions are also being accepted via phone or email.

Here are the links to the submission forms:

The Commission is seeking information from people about the following:

  • If you have experienced incidents of violence, abuse, neglect and/or abuse
  • Your experiences of making a complaint process and any outcomes
  • Your access to places and services
  • The quality (how good they are) and the safety (how safe you feel) of disability specific services
  • Best practice and innovation – examples of when services get things right

Any submissions made to the Commission at this point will be treated as public documents. If you want to make a confidential submission you will be able to do this soon. QDN will be making a submission too and we are keen for members to contribute their experiences to our submission. You can do this confidentially, if we use your story we won’t identify who you are. We will let members know when we are ready to hear your story.

Royal Commission Support

An information line has been launched for the Royal Commission to support people with disability, families, carers and others to have their say in the Royal Commission. The number is 1800 517 199 (9am to 5pm AEDT, Monday to Friday). An email address for enquiries is also available at DRCenquiries@royalcommission.gov.au.

QDN will continue to keep members informed about the Royal Commission.

2019 QDN member survey – have your say!

QDN invite all members and supporters to complete the 2019 Member Survey.  We ask what is important to you as a QDN member.  We want to find out information about your experiences of living in Queensland, including accessing necessary services and supports to enable you to socially and economically participate and be included in your community. Your responses will inform our big-picture policy work going forward and our advocacy with governments, community and tertiary organisations.

We encourage all members and supporters to take the time to complete the survey.    

 
 
If you have difficulty completing the survey, please call the QDN office on 1300 363 783 and we can assist by completing the survey over the phone with you.
 
Survey responses are anonymous however if you would like to go into the draw to win a prize please let us know your name and contact details when submitting your response.
 
While we survey our members for feedback each year, we are always interested in any feedback you wish to share and you can always email us at qdn@qdn.org.au.
 
Nigel Webb
QDN Chairperson