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Draft proposal 2: An improved and individualised approach to work with participants to understand risk and build safeguards

How does this currently work?

The NDIA encourages participants to consider the safeguards, strategies and support mechanisms they have in their lives when developing their statement of supports, deciding on their support requirements, developing their plan and putting their plan into action.[40]

Currently, the planning and assessment conversation is an opportunity to consider risks and safeguards that may be required, and planners are given some information about actions to take where they identify risks.For example, NDIA guidance explains that plans can include more funding to build a participant’s support network.[41] The NDIA also see this as a chance to organise regular interactions between participants, their supporters and the NDIA, or NDIS intermediaries, and to check that their providers have appropriate registration for certain supports (for example, restrictive practices).[42]

However, we have so far heard from participants, families and carers that:

  • They are not always aware of, or actively engaged in, conversations about risk and safeguarding.
  • Where they are aware of these conversations, they may not be aware that what they are being asked is part of an assessment of their safeguards and the risks they may face. This can mean that their perspectives on the risks and safeguards in their lives are not taken into account, and may leave them at heightened risk of harm.

Access and planning processes can be confronting for some people. Some people have also expressed that they have experienced risk assessment processes as confronting.[43] As described above, the NDIA has recently developed a new NDIA Participant Safeguarding Policy. Focus areas in this policy include ensuring a proactive and individualised approach to identifying, assessing and managing risks on an ongoing basis, and working with people with disability to proactively develop safeguards.

The ambitions in the Policy take positive steps to addressing some of the issues with current processes. However, we have formed the preliminary view that there are further opportunities to improve proactive, individualised and participant-led conversations about risk and safeguards, building on the ambitions in the NDIA’s policy.

How could it change to work better?

We think there should be a more comprehensive and individualised approach to understand risk and build safeguards that allows participants and their supporters to lead the conversation, and to speak about risk and safeguards in a manner that reflects their needs, values, priorities and experiences.

This should start with transparent and meaningful conversations with participants and their supporters about risk and safeguarding. It should be supported by a range of safeguarding strategies, and incorporate active and ongoing monitoring for changes.


We are considering the participant pathway more broadly, including the relationships between participants, the NDIA, and NDIS intermediaries. Recommendations relating to participant safeguarding will be integrated more broadly into any recommendations on the participant pathway.

Key features of these conversations and processes could include:

  • Working together, led by the participant, to reach a shared understanding of what risks might be present in the participant’s life in a trauma-aware, healing-informed way. This would include considering the protective factors and personal capital available to support the participant, and the circumstances of families, carers and community supporters (for example, the breadth and capability of supporters).
  • Working together, led by the participant, to consider safeguarding options (both formal and natural) that are appropriate to the risks identified and meet the needs and preferences of the participant and their supporters. Proposal 3 will talk about ideas for supports to build or strengthen natural safeguards – as well as targeted safeguarding actions for participants facing higher risks – that could be considered.
  • Agreeing a plan to monitor and review risks and safeguards together. This could include defined review points, avenues for participants to raise changes or issues at other times, and use of government data (held by both the Commonwealth and the states and territories) to identify risks and changes. Proposal 3 will talk about some ideas for monitoring risk over time, including information sharing and outreach.
  • Recording safeguarding plans in an accessible way as a resource for the participant.

We consider that these conversations and processes should:

  • Be led by the participant and focused on empowering the participant.
  • Be between the participant (and their chosen supporters) and a trusted person with whom the participant will feel comfortable discussing risk and safety. Consideration should be given to ensuring participants have agency to identify their supporters, acknowledging this may not always be family members. This may require someone to work with the participant over time to understand their needs and desires.
  • Be personalised to the individual participant and their circumstances, noting that discussions about risk and safeguards will look different for every participant.
  • Support each participant to communicate what being safe looks and feels like for them, and prioritise their individual perspectives on risk and safeguards in their lives.
  • Prioritise efforts to build and strengthen natural safeguards.
  • Be supported by a suite of safeguarding options that could be deployed in different circumstances to uphold the safety, rights and preferences of the participant.
  • Incorporate active and ongoing monitoring, including by leveraging government data and information (held by both the Australian Government and the states and territories) to identify issues and changes in a participant’s circumstances that may impact the risks they face or the effectiveness of their natural safeguards.

It will be important that conversations and processes to consider risk and safeguards are developed and implemented in the way that works best for participants, including that they happen at an appropriate time and with a person the participant trusts.

Questions for consultation

  1. When and how should participants and their supporters be engaged in communication about risk and safeguards in the NDIS? Why would this be the best approach?
    • Options could include when a participant is granted access to the NDIS; during the planning process; or at another time.
  2. Who should communicate about these concepts with participants, and why? What skills or attributes are required to best support this?
    • Options could include a planner, an advocate, another person, or a self-led process undertaken by participants supported by information.

Have your say

Consultation is now closed.

To have your say in the NDIS Review visit our consultation page.