Secretary to Cabinet Cassy O'Connor says she expects to table new disability services legislation in the Spring sitting of State Parliament.
Ms O'Connor told a Parliamentary Estimates Committee today the review of the Disability Services Act offered an opportunity to ensure that disability services were provided in a way that met the community's obligations to Tasmanians with a disability.
"We need to be sure that the Act reflects contemporary policy and practice; that there are sufficient safeguards and that the services provided are the best possible response for those with the greatest needs."
Ms O'Connor said a thorough consultation process was well under way.
"A discussion paper was released in December last year, with the consultation period closing at the end of last month," she said.
"People with an interest in shaping the future of disability services in Tasmania were urged to have their say.
"A total of 17 submissions were received in response to the discussion paper, and a report summarizing the information provided through the review process and outlining possible future directions is currently being finalized.
"It is intended to provide opportunity for comment on the proposed directions.
"The process has been drawn out, but I make no apology for this.
"The review of this Act is important as it provides an opportunity to continue to improve the way that services are provided for people living with disabilities.
"It is important that everyone who wants to comment on the possible amendments is given adequate opportunity to do so.
"I intend for the draft amendments to be considered in the Spring sitting of Parliament."
Feedback on the Discussion Paper is follows: Preliminary Feedback from the Discussion Paper
Purpose of the Act: Respondents supported the need for the Act to reflect (but not duplicate) Tasmania's broader national and international agreements.
Definition of Disability: Some expressed concern that the definition of disability inherently restricts access to services and argued the need for a broader, inclusive definition.
Specific Provisions for Children with a Disability: Most respondents supported the inclusion of specific provisions for children, reinforcing provisions within international and national agreements; addressing specific planning and service delivery needs. Some respondents supported extending specific provisions to other disadvantaged target populations.
Funding Arrangements: Many respondents expressed caution at the notion of funding being provided direct to the individual, however most supported allowing for innovation and flexibility in funding models.
Quality and Safety: Respondents broadly supported the legislation requiring a quality and safety framework be established, however did not support the legislation containing specific detail. Most respondents also called for the establishment of an independent Community Visitors Scheme.
Compliance and Sanctions: Most respondents supported provisions for compliance and sanctions being established in administrative/policy specifications. Several respondents called for the establishment of an independent Community Visitors Scheme to assist with monitoring compliance.
Complaints: Most respondents expressed concern as to the adequacy of current complaints and dispute resolution processes, claiming current arrangements to be ad hoc and challenging for many clients with a disability to access. Most argue for the establishment of a disability specific response, possibly through the Office of a Disability (and/or Community Services) Commissioner.
Substitute Decision Making: Most respondents expressed the view that the Act should not contain provisions for appointment of formal Guardians and Administrators, preferring that this remain within the scope of the Guardianship and Administration Act 1995. Most respondents noted that legal provisions for the management of client funds were outside of the Act and that this matter should be dealt with through operational advice not legislative amendments.
Ongoing Role of the Disability Ethics Committee: Respondents presented a compelling case that current provisions for the role and function of the Disability Ethics Committee no longer met contemporary requirements and that alternative strategies should be considered.
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