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Enhancing Safeguards for Australians With Disabilities

Disabled Australians could soon have stronger protections for their rights and safety when seeking support services.

Australians living with disabilities who receive services from providers outside the National Disability Insurance Scheme could be better supported and protected from harm.

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth introduced legislation on Thursday to protect the rights and safety of those living with disabilities who are seeking support services.

Ms. Rishworth said the reforms would “support people to participate in society, ensure safe and quality services and protect their rights”.

She said the new laws would replace existing measures that had not kept up with modern disability policy.

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“The Disability Services Act, now more than three-decades-old, is outdated and too restrictive to accommodate the changing landscape of disability policy,” she told parliament.

“This includes a shift towards creating a more inclusive society and the nature of services and supports required to complement the NDIS.”

The new laws follow disturbing revelations of abuse from within disability service providers heard at the disability royal commission.

About one in every six Australians, or 4.4 million people, live with a disability, and many receive support from services separate from the NDIS.

Ms Rishworth said the new laws had been developed alongside the disability community.

“In response to this changed landscape … (the bill) establishes a contemporary, inclusive framework,” she said.

“It supports the inclusion of people with disability by broadening the supports and services that can be funded under the bill and seeks to avoid placing unnecessary restrictions on who can receive support from services.”

Disability services providers outside the NDIS will be held to a code of conduct and required to obtain a certificate of compliance to ensure the rights and safety of their clients.

Organisations found to have breached the code could have their arrangements with the federal government revoked.

Additionally, anyone living with a disability, or their carers and families, will also be able to complain about any services they receive.

“This code will set a minimum standard for all service providers and workers, and will show people with disability, their families and carers what they should expect from providers funded under this legislation,” Ms. Rishworth said.

The bill comes on the eve of the closing ceremony for the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.

It is aimed at ensuring the government can respond effectively to the final recommendations when they are delivered at the end of September.

The reforms were created in consultation with those people living with disabilities and their relatives, alongside service providers and government agencies.

The proposed laws will also make funding easier for a wider range of non-NDIS services and supports, and allow them to receive money from sources other than grants.

The new laws will not include a definition of disability in order to allow for services for people to be adapted as needed.

Australia will be brought in line with obligations under the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of People with Disability by “focusing on capacity, experience, empowerment, potential and goals for people with disability.”

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