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Restrictive Practices

11 May 2021

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (15:02): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Human Services questions on restrictive practices applying to vulnerable groups.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY: With this chamber having passed the Disability Inclusion (Restrictive Practices—NDIS) Amendment Bill on the sixth of this month, it is an opportune time to ask about the expansion of the scheme. The NDIS bill protected and improved the rights of people with a disability under NDIS who may be subject to restrictive practices. The use of restrictive practices impacts on basic human rights and needs to be kept to an absolute minimum, and be a last resort reflected in the bill just passed by this chamber. My questions to the Minister for Human Services are:

1. When will the government bring forward further legislation to safeguard other vulnerable groups, including the aged with their in-home services and residential care?

2. Given that the existing bill for NDIS providers notes that the use of restricted practices is not authorised to address inadequate levels of staffing, equipment and facilities, why is this not also a priority for aged care and other vulnerable groups?

3. Does the minister see merit in the argument that legislative safeguards for vulnerable groups who may be subject to restrictive practices should lie with the Attorney-General in her role as chief law officer, rather than the service and delivery agencies?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (15:04): I thank the honourable member for his question. In response to the last question, that was a matter we did discuss in this chamber, that the management, if you like, of the restrictive practices, the narrow scope of what we were dealing with in parliament recently, is such that the government has decided the best place for that is with the Department of Human Services, given that it has been intimately involved since and post the transition to the NDIS in terms of the policy leavers and so have that body of knowledge in it. The proposed regulation will sit in a separate part of the department from our service delivery arm, which is in our accommodation services. Because it is a larger department, it can manage those particular areas quite separately.

I may have spoken in this place before about the overall process to reach the stage that we have reached in terms of restrictive practices. The development of a restrictive practice regime was actually referred to in the Governor's speech, following the proroguing of parliament, so that's going back to earlier than 2019, but I stand to be corrected. So it has been something that has been in process for quite some time.

The original concept across government was to bring together all the agencies that may well be engaged in restrictive practices to develop what the honourable member is advocating for, which is an overall piece of legislation for all restrictive practices, because it's not just in disability services or aged care, as he has identified, it also takes place in mental health and takes place to some degree in child protection, education, corrections, a whole range of settings.

It certainly is the intention of the government to implement the legislation he has identified to minimise the use of restrictive practices. We agree with him that it can be a breach of human rights. Some practices have taken place in previous times because it was at the convenience of the providers and the like. We certainly are of the view that restrictive practices should be minimised. They should only be used for the safety and wellbeing of the person who is under the restrictive practice and/or other people who are around them.

It's been tasked to the Attorney-General to manage the overall process. We wanted to make sure that this legislation was introduced and implemented, because South Australia has been behind in terms of its legislation. Without the legislation that is currently before the assembly there are a lot of practices that take place that are actually unlawful, and for that reason a very large amount of reporting goes to the Quality and Safeguards Commission as part of their collection of information. So it is in process.

I can seek a response from the Attorney in terms of the time frame, but it is something that the government has been working on for quite some time with a range of representatives from most of those agencies that I have identified where restrictive practices take place. It's something that's very front of mind for us and is a very large work in progress at this stage.