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Author: Annette Allen

SECTOR UPDATE

New Haven Farm

Recently, on a sector level we have seen the roll out of two new concepts.

The first occurred on the 1st February 2021 when NDIS rolled out a national worker screening check, following the establishment of the NDIS Commission’s worker screening database. The introduction of the national screening check replaces previous requirements of state-based screening and clearances such as a police check. It is hoped that the implementation of such will effectively make it easier for staff to work between states and decrease the complexity for support staff to meet screening requirements.

With this new approach, every new worker who is employed by a registered NDIS provider will be required to apply for a worker screening check in line with their type of employment. The identity of the worker will need to be verified, following which, the screening unit will conduct a risk assessment to determine whether the worker will receive clearance to be employed. For all current employees, it is now essential that when their current state-issued police clearances expire (all checks currently have a two year expiration) that they be updated with an NDIS worker screening check. For current employees there is no requirement to obtain a NDIS worker screening check until such time as their current checks expire. It is mandatory for all employees of a registered NDIS provider to have obtained clearance to work in the sector.

The second has been the implementation of the Disability Gateway. It has been identified that a significant barrier for people with disabilities to increase their independence and community participation is that themselves and their support network experience significant difficulties in accessing information regarding policies, programs and support. In response to this, the Department of Social Services has implemented the National Disability Information Gateway which is a resource that can be accessed by either people with disabilities (regardless of whether they are an NDIS participant) or their support network and can be accessed via a website (search Disability Gateway), a dedicated phone number 1800 643 787, as well as social media channels. The platform provides access to trusted information and services. It also replaces the previous Disability Information Helpline however to avoid any disruption to services, the same phone number has been utilised.

The Royal Commission Interim Report

On the 30th October this year, the Interim Report of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with DisabilityInterim Report of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability was released. This 586 page document is quite long and detailed, however Jessica Quilty of DSC recently shared a summary of the report. I would like to share a little of this with you.

The Royal Commission was established on the 18th February 2019, with one of its key roles being to inquire into what governments, institutions and the community should do to report, investigate, respond to, prevent and better protect people with disability from experiencing violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. The Royal Commission’s terms of reference were issued on 4 April 2019 after extensive consultation with people with disability and the disability sector. These terms of reference direct the Royal Commission to inquire into what should be done to promote a more inclusive society that supports the independence of people with disability and their right to live free from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

While the report does contain some very confronting information and examples of the mistreatment of people living with a disability, New Haven Farm Home appreciate this piece of work and the advocacy for people living with a disability, so that Nationwide, improvements can be made and any mistreatment can be prevented.

New Haven Farm Home believes that everyone, regardless of their abilities, support needs, gender, race, ethnicity, religion or nationality, have the right to safety, inclusion and opportunities that will enable them to enhance, fulfil and demonstrate a valued role in their community. This is something that we are very passionate about as we advocate for social inclusion, respect and dignity for all people living with a disability.

The Interim Report identifies and explores in detail a number of emerging themes as particularly pertinent throughout the inquiry. These are

  • choice and control
  • attitudes towards disability
  • segregation and exclusion
  • restrictive practices
  • access to services and supports
  • advocacy and representation
  • oversight and complaints
  • funding

A series of key issues were also raised, explored and presented in the interim report. Each of these key issues have presented the Royal Commission with a list of areas they will investigate and address in order to implement improvements. Just some of the key issues discussed are listed below with a top-line summary, however, we encourage you to refer to either the full report or the 80 page summary on the Royal Commissions website.

 

Education and learning

The Commission heard of education and learning disadvantages being placed on students with a disability as well as physical, verbal and emotional violence and abuse in educational settings, including restrictive practices and pressure to medicate children to address behaviour.

The Commission heard a range of different perspectives about the best way to structure Australia’s education system, from segregated settings to inclusive education. Some advocated that segregated settings enable specialist support and adapted curricula, whilst others asserted that segregation results in higher rates of violence, abuse and neglect, both within these settings and later in life. Some organisations and academics described these settings as based on seeing disability as a deficit, which perpetuates the exclusion of people with disability throughout their education and work lives. The stories in the report clearly illustrate how foundational these earlier educational experiences are in building enduring positive relationships and inclusive communities.

 

Homes and Living

The Commission explored the importance of dignity and choice for people living with a disability. This is of particular interest and encouragement of New Haven Farm Home as we are strongly committed to person centred support meaning each individual is supported and encouraged in their life goals, aspirations and aims with choice and respect as both adults and decision makers.

The Interim Report investigates the links between people described being deprived of choice in shared supported accommodation, leading to a loss of control and autonomy and exclusion from social, economic and cultural life. The Royal Commission heard evidence that this lack of choice can also lead to residents in supported accommodation being unfortunately exposed to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

 

Health

It was reported that people with disability often experience poorer health than people without disability and face significant barriers to accessing health care.

People shared their experiences of abuse that occurs, including involuntary treatment and diagnostic overshadowing. People spoke about health staff not listening to patients with disability or talking about them rather than to them. The Commission also heard of the increased difficulties experienced by people with disability in accessing health care during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Royal Commission acknowledged that whilst the quality of health care provided varies, the evidence suggests there continues to be systemic neglect of people with cognitive disability in the Australian health system and will further investigate and advocate for better care and fairness for people living with a disability in regards to health care.

 

Relationships 

The Royal Commission report finds people with disability experience higher rates of domestic and family violence than people without disability. This has been amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic, where people were more isolated and less able to report and escape domestic and family violence. The Royal Commission heard stories about children who were removed from parents with disability and adults with disability who were removed from their families when they were children. Experiences were shared by First Nations families in the context of child removal practices. These experiences are, in part, responsible for the widespread mistrust of mainstream systems by First Nations families, resulting in families being less likely to access mainstream supports and services.

 

Community participation

People with disability continue to face attitudinal, institutional, environmental and communicative barriers to community participation. People are excluded through the inaccessibility of buildings, public and private spaces and inaccessible information. The Royal Commission heard how access to information was unreliable and confusing during the COVID-19 pandemic and that many people with disability felt overlooked or left behind during the crisis. Some people with cognitive disability spoke of feeling unsafe in public spaces, such as when using public transport or negotiating hazards in public areas. The report highlights that inaccessibility takes many forms far beyond the understanding of the mainstream community.

 

Economic participation

People with disability experience high levels of socioeconomic disadvantage and are more likely to experience poverty, financial hardship and unemployment, with lower incomes and higher costs associated with living with disability. The Commission heard of experiences of physical, verbal and sexual abuse in the workplace. In some instances, when these issues were raised, they were ignored or not addressed.

The lack of meaningful work and difficulties in transitioning to open employment were also raised. In its future inquiries, the Commission will be examining the connection between poverty, unemployment and underemployment and violence, abuse, neglect and the exploitation of people with disability, as well as the effectiveness of employment policies and programs for people with disability.

 

NDIS

What the Commission has heard so far includes acknowledgement of some improvements under the NDIS, but also increased frustration that many of the intended benefits are yet to be realised. Some speakers told the Commission about the positive impacts that the NDIS had had on their lives; however, many more indicated that their experiences of the NDIS did not meet their expectations, both in its design and implementation. Some people felt that choice and control have been undone by how the NDIA acts as a ‘gatekeeper’ to how people with disability live their lives and how some providers unfortunately now see people with disability as a ‘commodity’.

 

Justice

The Royal Commission heard that people with disability are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and face a range of barriers to accessing support to protect their rights and interests. Experiences were shared of people being disbelieved when they made a report, being treated as the offender rather than the complainant and being approached by police or formally questioned inappropriately. People with cognitive or psychosocial disability are at higher risk of moving in and out of the justice system. This is often through repeated short-term prison sentences, as well as being subject to indefinite detention orders, meaning they can be held for a longer period than if they had been convicted. Further concerns were raised about the use of restrictive practices on people with cognitive disability, including the use of solitary confinement.

I realise that this has been quite a lengthy article, however, I am sure you share our appreciation of such in depth investigations being made by the Royal Commission to ensure across the board people living with a disability are treated with the same respect, dignity and appreciation as all members of our society in all aspects of their lives.

SECTOR UPDATE

I would like to share some information that was featured in a recent SIL publication:

Through a process of consultation with NDIS SIL providers, the NDIS have identified some areas of concern that have emerged in the provision of Supported Independent Living (SIL) services.

The issues identified are as follows:

  • SIL funding is not always fair and equitable with current practices relying on a subjective approach to determine what is reasonable and necessary for a participant;
  • The SIL process is administratively complex;
  • SIL costs continue to escalate.

As an immediate reaction to these identified issues, NDIS are committed to:

  • Providing stronger fairness and equity through the use of the price guide in the creation of SIL funding;
  • Reduced administrative complexity.  An example of how this will be done is through eliminating payment backlogs and offering auto-extend options;
  • Reviewing ongoing costs of the scheme along with other long term measures.

You may find some of the following statistics interesting as identified in the NDIS sector and provider consultation paper for improved outcomes for SIL participants:

  • SIL and Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) provide funding for NDIS participants who have some of the highest disability support needs. Currently, over 24,000 participants receive SIL.  [1]
  • This means 6% of all NDIS participants receive funding for SIL supports, which is 30% of total NDIS funding ($8.3 billion annualised).  [2]
  • There are roughly 14,000 participants who receive both SIL and SDA funding. This is 58% of the total SIL participant cohort or 93% of the total SDA participant cohort.

2019/20 Q4 COAG Report (https://www.ndis.gov.au/about-us/publications/quarterly-reports)
[1]Data rounded. NDIA, Office of the Scheme Actuary analysis, data current as at 30 June 2020
[2] NDIA, Office of the Scheme Actuary analysis, data current as at 30 June 2020

SHORT TERM ACCOMMODATION

At New Haven Farm Home we are very excited to be able to expand our services to know include Short Term Accommodation or as it is more commonly known, respite care. We are very proud to have been offering this service to clients and their families for the last 4 months.

This type of service differs from our main service in that the focus point is to provide clients with a safe, happy, relaxed, fun filled environment that provides a ‘holiday’ feel experience.

For each client who uses the service, the experience is very different, as being an entirely person centred focused organisation, each stay is tailored to the individual’s preference, from the activities they partake in, to the food they consume. At New Haven Farm Home, we have been very fortunate to have some STA clients enjoy the experience with the organisation so much that they have since become permanent clients and have moved into our SIL supports.

Whilst the deliverance of a respite service focus’ on the individual client, the provision of the service is essential for the clients support network and carers. These people work tirelessly, around the clock in order to meet the support needs of the person whom they care greatly for. The carer has little to no scope to attend to their own needs, be that medical, social or whatever form it may take. It is therefore crucial that carers have an opportunity to meet their own needs so that they can continue providing ongoing support to their client. However, in order for them to be able to do so, they require the client to be able to attend a high quality service where the carer can be confident that not only all their loved ones support needs are met but that they are comfortable, content and happy with their stay. One way in which we as an organisation support the carers of our clients is to provide them with easily accessed frequent and open communication and updates throughout the clients stay so that they have the confidence and reassurance to fully utilise their time away. We are very proud to be able to provide this service to not only our clients but their families and support networks.

‘CARE’ AND ‘SUPPORT’

Often the power of words and phrases can be under-estimated or not given appropriate levels of consideration. Within the disability sector, you may often hear words or phrases of ‘care’ verses ‘support’. Whilst on first consideration, either word may elicit positive thoughts and associations and it would be right to do so as both imply consideration and assistance to others.

By true definition, the word care means the provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone.

Alternatively, support means to provide assistance.

At New Haven Farm Home, we make a clear distinction and focus on the later term. The word ‘care’ is a very inactive word for the actual client or participant. It places the importance, dominance and actually empowers the person providing the care, whilst removing such from the person receiving it. Alternatively, the word ‘support’ is far more active for the client or participant and both implies and allows them to be the dominant factor in the relationship, making them the driving force and the decision maker of all interactions. Furthermore, it encompasses all areas and factors of a person’s life, not stopping at meeting a person’s needs but extending to likes, desires and goals. Whilst it is incredibly important that the client is the focus of the organisation’s vision and mission as well as their daily work, New Haven Farm Home extends this thinking and consequential action to its members of staff also, working at all times to support them in their work so that they may continue to provide optimal levels of support to our clients.