31st August 2017
The Disability Services Commissioner (DSC) now has the power to conduct ‘own initiated’ investigations into allegations of abuse and neglect in Victorian disability services. Previously, DSC was only able to investigate these serious matters if a complaint had been brought to our office.
The Commissioner now has the power to initiate investigations into serious matters within disability services.
What types of issues will DSC be investigating?
DSC will be investigating Victorian disability services, where there are individual or systemic issues relating to abuse or neglect in the provision of the services.
An individual Commissioner-initiated investigation may be conducted if DSC receives information that abuse or neglect may have occurred in the provision of services to a person with a disability.
A systemic Commissioner-initiated investigation may be conducted if DSC identifies a persistent or recurring systemic issue about abuse or neglect in the provision of the services.
These investigations will only be undertaken if DSC considers that the investigation will assist in the improvement of services for people with a disability, and if DSC has the resources to conduct the investigation.
When will DSC conduct the first Commissioner-initiated investigation?
DSC has the capacity to begin individual initiated investigations immediately, if DSC receives information that abuse or neglect may have occurred to a person with a disability in the provision of a disability service.
Preparation is underway for developing the process for systemic initiated investigations. This may take some months.
How will I know if DSC decides to investigate my service?
Any disability service or individual involved in a Commissioner-initiated investigation will receive a written notice of investigation within 14 days of DSC making the decision to investigate. The notice will provide more information about what is expected of the service and individuals during the investigation.
DSC can decide not to provide a written notice if it is believed that the health, safety, or welfare of a person with a disability may be at risk, or if a written notice will affect proper investigation of the matter. However once this risk has ended, DSC must provide written notice without delay.
What does my service have to do during an investigation?
A service provider must ensure that DSC is provided with any assistance reasonably required to conduct the investigation. This includes providing information and documents, participating in interviews or hearings with DSC, and giving staff time to attend interviews or hearings with DSC.
DSC also has the power to send Authorised Officers to inspect the premises of a disability service during an investigation.
What happens after a Commissioner-initiated investigation?
Following the conclusion of an investigation, DSC will provide written notice of the decision to any disability service involved in the investigation, and any people with disability who were the subject of the investigation. If the investigation has identified that issues of concern exist in the service or services, DSC has the power to issue a Notice to Take Action to disability service providers.
DSC will provide a report on a completed systemic initiated investigation to the Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing, and the Secretary to the Department of Health and Human Services. This report may be made publically available through tabling in the Victorian Parliament. Reports relating to individual initiated investigations may be provided to the Minister and Secretary, but will not be made publically available.
For more information, click here.
What penalties apply in DSC investigations?
The amended Disability Act 2006 outlines a range of offences and associated penalties. For more information, click here.
What protections are in place for persons providing information in DSC investigations?
There are a range of protections under the amended Disability Act 2006 for persons participating in a DSC investigation. For more information, click here.
What if I have more questions?
If you have further questions, you may contact DSC on 1300 728 187 or DSCSystemicReview@odsc.vic.gov.au for more information.
- Final Report of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Abuse in Disability Services, May 2016
- Government’s response to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Abuse in Disability Services, November 2016
- Disability Amendment Act 2017