Safer services for people with a disability

The Victorian Government is committed to a culture of zero tolerance of abuse across the disability sector.

On 16 August 2017, the Victorian Government brought in new legislation called the Disability Amendment Act 2017. The Act changes the Disability Act 2006 to strengthen the powers of the Disability Services Commissioner (the Commissioner) to investigate reports of abuse or neglect of people receiving disability services.

This includes disability service providers, as defined in the Disability Act 2006. Examples include:

  • Residential services
  • Day services
  • Respite
  • Advocacy
  • Aids and equipment services.

The Commissioner’s powers

The Disability Services Commissioner is independent from government. The Commissioner’s role is to manage and resolve complaints about disability services for people with a disability in Victoria.

The new Act allows the Commissioner to conduct an investigation into abuse and neglect of people with a disability in disability services even if they haven’t received a complaint. The Commissioner will be able to investigate an individual allegation of abuse or neglect, or issues of abuse or neglect in the provision of disability services that may be widespread across the disability sector.

The Commissioner can appoint authorised officers who will have the power to visit and inspect service providers’ premises to investigate allegations of abuse or neglect.

What the new Act means for people with a disability

The new Act aims to provide greater protections for people with a disability. The Commissioner will be able to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect. This can include allegations of abuse or neglect from a staff member or inadequate safeguards where by one client may be a risk towards another.

A person with a disability may be asked to assist the Commissioner in an investigation. This could take the form of being asked to be interviewed by the Commissioner’s staff, permission to enter a private bedroom in a residential service, or consent to the Commissioner viewing copies of medical records. A person with a disability may choose not to allow inspection of their private room, or to be interviewed. Depending on the situation, the Commissioner may decide to use powers such as applying for a warrant to inspect the premises or compel evidence or attendance of witnesses.

The Commissioner will ensure support is made available for any person participating in an investigation. The authorised officers must allow the guardian or next of kin of a person with a disability to be present in an interview. The authorised officers could also allow an advocate of the person’s choice to be present during an interview.

The role of families and carers in an investigation

Families, parents and carers play an important role in the Commissioner’s investigations. Many of the enquiries and complaints received by the Commissioner are from family members. They can often provide the Commissioner with important information, and provide vital support for people with a disability during what can be a difficult experience.

If the Commissioner believes a family member or carer has information that is relevant to an investigation, the Commissioner may seek that information from them. For example, the Commissioner’s authorised officers may interview family members with their consent.

How to make a complaint or discuss a concern

If you want to make a complaint or discuss a concern about a disability service, you can call the Disability Services Commissioner.

You can also contact the Commissioner:

  • By email,
  • Using TTY 
  • Skype,
  • With the help of an interpreter 
  • Online.

For more information, visit the Commissioner’s website.