Bills Digest No. 90 2001-02
Disability Services Amendment (Improved Quality Assurance)
This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as
introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest
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Disability Services Amendment (Improved
Quality Assurance) Bill 2002
Date Introduced: 13 February 2002
Portfolio: Family and Community Services
Commencement: On Royal Assent apart from
Schedule 1, items 2 to 52, which commence on 1 July 2002
This Bill amends
the Disability Services Act 1986 in order to establish a
new quality assurance system in relation to specialist disability
employment services(1) and rehabilitation
The 2001 Bill
The Bill is substantially the same as the
Disability Services Amendment (Improved Quality Assurance) Bill
2001, which was discussed in detail in Bills Digest No. 54 of
In sum, the 2001 Bill represented the
Government's response to the 1997 recommendations of the Disability
Quality and Standards Working Party,(3) which was set up
pursuant to the announced intention of the Government in its 1996/7
Budget to reform the quality assurance process for disability
employment assistance services. (4)
The funding of those services is provided under
the Disability Services Act 1986, section 14K of which
requires the monitoring of service quality against the Disability
Services Standards. Those standards, which were introduced in 1993
by the then Labor Government, set out eleven areas of service
quality that consumers are entitled to expect, in relation to:
service access; individual needs; decision making and choice;
privacy, dignity and confidentiality; participation and
integration; valued status; complaints and disputes; service
management; employment conditions; employment support; and
employment skills development. To date, compliance with these
standards has been monitored by a combination of annual
self-assessment by the service provider and an audit of the service
provider by the Department of Family and Community Services (FaCS).
Widespread concern that this regime has not ensured service
provision of adequate quality, as measured against the Disability
Services Standards, provided the impetus for the legislative reform
proposed in the 2001 Bill.
The core of that proposed reform(5)
was the introduction of a system of accreditation and certification
for service providers, involving audit teams whose competence and
impartiality would be monitored by the Joint Accreditation System
of Australia and New Zealand (JAS-NAZ). (6)Each audit
team would include a person with a disability. The audit teams
would assess disability employment services for accreditation
against new standards (based on the existing Disability Services
Standards) and 30 associated Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
After a transition period ending in December 2004, service
providers unable to satisfy the accreditation process would lose
The 2001 Bill lapsed at the time Parliament was
prorogued prior to the recent Federal election.
The Senate Community Affairs
The Senate Community Affairs Legislation
Committee received twenty written submissions on the 2001 Bill and
took verbal evidence at a hearing in September 2001. At that
hearing, evidence was given by representatives of ACROD Ltd (the
peak body for disability service providers in Australia) and the
National Caucus of Disability Consumer Associations (NCDCA; the key
consumer representative body in this area), as well as officers of
Issues raised at the hearing included the
- The likely impact of the Government's proposed reforms on the
provision of services to people with disabilities.
ACROD expressed support for the 2001 Bill in
this respect. Its CEO stated his belief that 'it will make a very
significant contribution to improving the quality of employment
services provided to people with disabilities and will improve the
consistency of those services across the country.'(7) He
also stated that: 'It may be that after that three-year period
there are some that cannot reach the required standards. The bottom
line as far as ACROD is concerned is not the survival of any one
organisation but the survival of a service to people with
disabilities. So there may be a reconfiguration of some
organisations.' (8) He was also of the opinion that
services in more isolated rural areas might be more vulnerable in
this respect than others.
NCDCA expressed support for the framework of
reform proposed in the 2001 Bill, namely, the framework of
accreditation, certification, standards, KPIs, external auditors,
and the inclusion of an auditor who has a disability. Its
representative questioned, however, whether that framework
necessarily would produce better outcomes unless appropriate rules
of compliance were in place.
FaCS emphasised that the three-year
implementation period proposed in the 2001 Bill would be sufficient
to allow service providers to put in place necessary changes to
enable them to meet the quality levels required in the new
accreditation system. FaCS also emphasised that the quality
assurance system proposed in the 2001 Bill is 'an integral plank in
a broader reform agenda for the disability employment system,' the
other components of which will include 'establishing an independent
eligibility assessment and referral process; trialing the linking
of funding to individual needs and outcomes; and contestability for
- The role of people with disabilities in the industrial
The payment of award-based (rather than award)
wages, the mooted implementation of the supported wage system, and
the special difficulties faced by disabled people in negotiating
and understanding workplace agreements were discussed - including
in relation to proposed standards 5 and 9 and accompanying KPIs.
ACROD, NCDCA and FaCS expressed widely different views on these
- The Government's consultative process in relation to the 2001
FaCS described the development of the system
proposed in the 2001 Bill as 'a highly consultative process, with
consumer and industry representatives involved throughout.'
(10) NCDCA raised some concerns about that process.
- The mechanism in the 2001 Bill for approval of KPIs.
The 2001 Bill provided for the standards, but
not the KPIs, to be disallowable instruments. Discussion of this
issue indicated some concern about the implications of this,
including in relation to the development of KPIs for standards 5
and 9. NCDCA was strongly of the view that the Bill should be
amended so that the KPIs become disallowable instruments.
The 2002 Bill
As noted earlier, the new Bill is substantially
the same as the 2001 Bill.
The 2002 Bill does include some minor changes.
The main effect of these changes is that the KPIs will be
Bills Digest No. 54 of 2001-02 explains the
The provisions of the 2002 Bill are in the main
identical to those in the 2001 Bill, except that they are numbered
slightly differently due to the insertion of some new items.
Substantive differences between the 2001 Bill
and 2002 Bill include:
- New Item 1 in Schedule 1 introduces a new
definition of 'officer' into the Disability Services Act
1986, for limited purposes relating to the delegation of the
Minister's powers under the Act. Currently 'officer' is defined as
an officer of the Department of FaCS. The new definition includes
APS employees in CRS Australia. The Explanatory Memorandum to the
2002 Bill says this change '[gives] effect to a recent government
decision to move the administration of CRS Australia to the
Department of Health and Ageing. As a result of this amendment, the
powers under Part III relating to the provision of rehabilitation
services can also be delegated to APS employees in CRS Australia
employed by another department.'
- New Item 47 in Schedule 1, which inserts new
paragraph 31(1)(ab), has the effect of making KPIs
approved by the Minister disallowable instruments.
- New Item 51 in Schedule 1 amends subsection
34(1) of the Disability Services Act 1986 to prevent
delegation by the Secretary of the power to approve an accrediting
- The Explanatory Memorandum states that employment
services of this kind are mainly provided by charitable, non-profit
agencies that are contracted by the Department of Family and
Community Services (FaCS). FaCS currently funds 435 organisations
to provide more than 870 specialist employment services, which are
used by 49, 285 people with disabilities. $279 million was
allocated to these programs in 2000-1.
- The Explanatory Memorandum states that FaCS provides
vocational rehabilitation through 160 Commonwealth Rehabilitation
Service Australia outlets at an annual cost of $101.9 million
- The Working Party's report, Assuring Quality, was
delivered in April 1997.
- The Hon. Judi Moylan, 'Increase benefits for people with a
disability,' Press Release, 20 August 1996.
- See further Bills Digest No 54 of 2001-02, pp. 2 4.
- JAS-ANZ is a government entity, a not-for-profit, self-funding
organisation, established under Treaty between Australia and New
Zealand in 1991. It is the peak accreditation body for the
certification of various systems, products and sector-specific
- Transcript of the Senate Community Affairs Legislation
Committee, 25 September 2001, p. 1.
- Ibid, p. 2.
- Ibid, p. 11.
- Ibid, p. 11.
12 March 2002
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