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How we can improve participant safeguarding in the NDIS
This NDIS Participant Safeguarding proposals paper provides information about what we have learned so far on this topic, as well as ideas we have to improve safeguards for participants that we want your feedback on.
We use words like ‘risk’ and ‘safety’ in this paper. We know these words do not describe everyone’s experiences and can bring up negative feelings for some people. We choose to use these words in this paper because we think it is important to discuss the issues that some people with disability face in our community in a direct way.
This paper contains material that may be emotionally impactful for some readers.
Information about support can be found at Content advice
Participants have the same right to safety as other members of the community, including when they use supports and services.
Safety means different things to different people. Safety can mean being free from violence and abuse, but it can also mean being respected, well-supported, connected to family, culture or community, and in control of your health and wellbeing. How people experience safety can differ depending on a range of factors including their gender, cultural background and disability.
You cannot know how safe someone is just by knowing that they have a disability. Risks to the safety of people with disability are often the result of other people’s views, attitudes, or failures to provide a safe place to live, work or socialise.
Safeguards are the actions that can be taken to support participants to exercise their right to safety. They may be natural, like having the skills to communicate your needs and expectations, or having good support from your family, friends or community to resolve problems. Or, they may be formal, like services provided by paid supports or rules set by the government for providers and workers.
Many things work together to support participants to exercise their right to safety and receive quality, safe supports and services. This paper focuses on participant capacity and natural safeguards, not rules. We will look at rules and other formal safeguards later in the Review.
We want to empower participants to better exercise their right to be safe. We also want to add to and improve the safeguards available in the NDIS.
What we have heard so far about participant safeguarding
Some participants, carers and families have already spoken to us about their experiences of safety in the NDIS. Responses tended to take a broad view of safety, and did not distinguish safety from health and wellbeing. Many people told us that access to good supports and services in their plan supported them to be safe and well, and that they felt unsafe when their circumstances changed and they were not able to access the services they needed.
People from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, including First Nations people, told us about some of the experiences they have had with services that were culturally safe and the positive impact this had on their safety, health and wellbeing.
Overall, we have heard so far that participants, carers and families want safeguards in the NDIS to:
- Support them to uphold their rights
- Ensure their supports are safe (including culturally safe) and high quality
- Recognise their personal circumstances
- Be psychologically safe
- Respond when their circumstances change.
We also think that:
- Participants with strong natural safeguards are better supported to be safe than those with poor natural safeguards.
- Safeguards should match the needs and preferences of participants.
- More intensive safeguards may be needed when participants have fewer natural safeguards, or are in circumstances that may present higher risks (such as living in a group home).
Ways to improve participant safeguarding
We are considering what new or improved safeguards the NDIS can put in place to help support participants to exercise their right to safety. We have three main ideas (proposals) for improving participant safeguarding. We think all of these ideas should be implemented together.
Our three ideas are:
- Create an NDIS-wide strategy on participant safeguarding. This would focus on the actions that government agencies need to take to make sure that a variety of good safeguards are available for participants and that they work well together. We think this would ensure all government agencies work well together, and everyone would have a clear idea of who does what to support participants to manage risk and safety.
- Work with participants to understand risk and build safeguards. Build opportunities for participants, their families and carers to lead conversations about risk and safeguards in their own lives. Support participants to communicate their own views on what risks to their safety they face, what their safety priorities are, and what supports they want that meet their needs and preferences. We know that these conversations and processes need to be developed in a way that will work best for participants. We also know that trust between the participant and the person supporting them in this conversation would be vital.
- Improve the variety of safeguards available to participants. We think there should be better safeguards available to participants that focus on building their capacity (and their supporters’ capacity) to exercise their right to safety. Different participants will benefit from different supports, so we think there should be a wider variety of safeguarding supports available. Some of the ideas for improved safeguards are:
- More supports that build capacity and natural safeguards, including more information on rights and programs that build connections with communities.
- Support to help participants make and communicate decisions, like training, communication tools and programs like circles of support.
- Information sharing between government agencies so that agencies can know and respond when a participant faces changes in their life or new risks of harm. We know that it is important personal information is shared only for the right reasons.
- Education programs and information resources on participant rights, managing risks and safeguarding options.
- Support and advice to navigate the NDIS, like help accessing advocacy services.
- Clear points of contact when participants need help, and warm referrals to other organisations or programs that can help.
- Rapid funding access when a participant’s circumstances change suddenly and they need changes to their plan to help them to stay safe.
- Outreach to help reach people with less natural safeguards, including people in each state and territory who can visit participants at their services or in their own home.
Have your say
We would like to hear from you so we can improve participant safeguarding.
You can have your say by answering our questions about participant safeguarding or sharing more general feedback, such as:
- What does being and feeling safe mean to you?
- What is currently working well, and not working well, to promote your safeguards?
- What you think about our three ideas for change?
- What other safeguards would best support you?
- What ideas or issues have we missed?
You can have your say using this web form. You do not need to answer each question individually, or at all. You can respond to the questions, issues and ideas in this paper in a way that best suits you.
Consultation on our ideas for participant safeguarding is open until 19 June 2023.
Your answers to questions and general feedback will help us make recommendations to governments on how to make participant safeguarding better.
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