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About the Framework

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Key messages

The Framework set an initial vision for quality and safeguards in the NDIS. While there has been positive progress in implementing parts of the Framework, other aspects have not been implemented as envisioned, or at all – and a number of reviews and inquiries have identified ongoing challenges with quality and safeguarding arrangements.

After six years in operation, the Framework needs to be reset in order to better reflect the current context and to drive more effective quality and safeguarding arrangements in the NDIS.

This issues paper supports a discussion about how to achieve this.

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History of the Framework

The NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Framework (the Framework) outlines an overarching architecture and specific initiatives to achieve effective safeguards and high quality supports in the NDIS, with a view to ensuring national consistency and replacing previous state and territory quality and safeguarding arrangements.

The Framework’s purpose is underpinned by the objects and principles of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 (NDIS Act 2013), including to empower participants to have informed choice and control to manage risks; be able to participate in, and contribute to, social and economic life; and live free from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

The Framework was endorsed by the then Council of Australian Governments and released in 2016 following extensive public consultation with the disability sector, and informed by learnings from a number of public inquiries at the time. In addition to the objects and principles set out in the NDIS Act 2013, the Framework is also underpinned by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the National Framework for Reducing and Eliminating the Use of Restrictive Practices in the Disability Service Sector, and the former National Disability Strategy 2010-2020.

At the time of the Framework’s release, participants in states and territories were transitioning to the NDIS, following a trial period that commenced in 2013. Most states and territories have since transitioned to new national quality and safeguarding arrangements. Western Australia, as well as residential aged care providers delivering supports funded under the NDIS, are planned to finalise transition arrangements in July 2023.

Many of the strategies identified in the Framework have been developed and operationalised, including the establishment of the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission (NDIS Commission), the development of the NDIS Code of Conduct, the implementation of a registration scheme for providers, and nationally consistent worker screening, with over 590,000 workers granted an NDIS Worker Screening Check since 1 February 2021 (NDIS Commission 2022).

While much has been achieved in these areas, some other strategies of the Framework have not been implemented as expected, or at all, for a range of reasons. This includes developmental safeguards such as capacity building initiatives, the development of natural safeguards, and the provision of comprehensive consumer information. ‘Natural safeguards’ are those protective features which are part of people’s day-to-day lives, such as having people around you that you trust, being part of a community or having a job.

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The need to review the Framework

When the Framework was released, it was anticipated that it would need to be reviewed as the market developed, to ensure it remained fit for purpose. We are undertaking this review of the Framework to identify what has worked well and what needs to be improved.

The market has grown and changed over this time. As at 31 December 2022, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) (2022) reported the NDIS has grown to over 570,000 participants and is expected to increase further.

Participants are supported by a large market of providers. This is made up of around 20,000 registered providers (NDIS Commission 2022), over 130,000 unregistered providers (NDIA 2022) who are used by participants with plan managers, and an unquantified segment of the market used by self-managed participants.

It is both timely and essential to review the Framework to identify what has worked well and what needs to be improved. By mid-2023, the NDIS will have completed the transition to full scheme arrangements nationally, and the NDIS Commission will have been in operation for five years.

The Framework needs to be fit for purpose for a more mature NDIS; and should evolve to reflect changes in the scheme, its participants and the market. It is clear that the Framework requires a reset in order to draw on the experience of its implementation to date, better reflect the current context, and drive more effective quality and safeguarding arrangements in the NDIS.

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This is the first step

This issues paper reflects what we have heard in our engagement to date and identified through analysis of other reviews and inquiries. Public consultation on the issues outlined in this paper will inform our advice and recommendations to governments.

We know that the Framework is a lengthy and complex document. We want to hear the breadth of experiences of the disability sector, particularly from participants, about what the Framework means to them.

This issues paper about the Framework is the first step in our conversations about quality and safeguards in the NDIS because the Framework sets out how quality and safeguards should work and who is responsible for the different parts. This issues paper is intended to broadly explore the Framework’s role, approach, and settings for quality and safeguards in the NDIS.

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How we will engage with you

We will consider specific aspects of quality and safeguards in more depth, focusing on the experiences of the disability sector, and will provide further opportunities for engagement. These further areas of focus will include:

  • Participant safeguarding. We will consider how the NDIS can best promote participant safeguards. This will include considering a whole-of-scheme perspective on promoting participant safeguards; as well as how formal and natural safeguards can work together to support participant choice, control and wellbeing.
  • Regulatory approach. We will consider opportunities to ensure the regulation of providers, workers and intermediaries is effective and proportionate to risk. This will include considering the regulatory approaches of the NDIS Commission and other Australian Government, as well as state and territory agencies that play roles in regulating for, or otherwise upholding, quality and safeguards.
  • Positive behaviour support and restrictive practices. We will consider issues in relation to positive behaviour support and restrictive practices, including opportunities to make meaningful progress on reducing and eliminating the use of restrictive practices.

These opportunities for further engagement will inform our advice and recommendations to governments.

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Other relevant reviews and inquiries

A number of public reviews and inquiries have been commenced or completed across the Australian Government, as well as state and territory governments, since the release of the Framework, providing further insights into challenges and opportunities to improve quality and safeguards in the NDIS. We are considering findings from previous reviews and inquiries, as well as submissions made to these reviews and inquiries, and will continue to monitor developments in active inquiries that may be relevant for consideration.

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