As the new head of the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, Graeme Head is charged with steering the regulatory and complaints body through its establishment as the country transitions to a national quality and safety system in the disability space. In an interview with Community Care Review Mr Head spoke about how the commission will usher in a new era for disability providers.
CCR: You took up your new role as commissioner on July 1. What are you hoping to achieve during your three-year term?
GH: We’ve not had a national approach to quality and safeguards in this space so the commission is really uniquely positioned to work in ways that lift the performance of the system and provide encouragement for people with disability to speak up and speak out. Supporting people with disability to feel confident to make complaints, working with providers around preventing problems and lifting performance and – because we’ve got a national scheme – getting rid of some of the duplication that takes efforts away from the delivery of quality services are all things to be achieved.
What are the biggest challenges in bringing the disability sector under a national system?
One of the challenges will be to just help people understand how this has been designed and what it means in terms of things that will be different for them. At the same time as communicating that to providers, we’ll be communicating it to people with disability and the people in their lives who provide them with support. In a sense we are educating and building capacity in the provider sector as well as working to provide capacity for people with disability. The challenge here is making sure that people understand what their new obligations are. A very big area to focus on is educating providers and participants about the new code of conduct.
You said in an address to CEDA earlier this month that the commission has regulatory teeth and isn’t afraid to use them. What are the areas of zero tolerance?
This system is really designed to be able to take the right kind of approach depending on the nature of the problem and we range from being able to work with providers to build capacity, to very serious regulatory measures such as the capacity to de-register, the capacity to issue banning orders, the capacity to seek civil penalties.
A high priority for the commission is to identify circumstances in which there may be neglect or abuse or people with disability and to take strong action. A really important part of the regulatory scheme is an obligation that now sits with registered providers to notify the commission of certain types of incidents. Reportable incidents include such things as abuse and neglect of NDIS participants and also things like the unauthorised use of restrictive practices.
The commission can also look at adverse findings against a provider in respect to a range of governance and financial management issues.
Will rogue providers be weeded out?
Rogue providers is your term, but what you can anticipate is that we will be taking a very focused approach to ensuring that our high priority efforts are directed towards those people whose performance is wide off the mark.
How will the national screening effort enhance the workforce?
This is a national system so if you are registered you’re able to provide services around the country. It is important for participants and providers that the workforce is subject to appropriate screening, and in a way that is simple for providers to identify whether somebody is appropriate to work in the system. National registration and the relative ease with which people can get clearance may assist with workforce issues, but the primary underpinning of this is around workers being appropriately screened to work with people with disability.
In recent days we’ve acquired a new PM and a new social services minister in the form of Paul Fletcher. Does this have any implications for the work of the NDIS commission?
We have a commitment to the way the NDIS is rolling out and we have a national agreement on a quality and safeguarding framework that the Commonwealth is a signatory to, as are all the states and territories. My job is to focus on rolling out that framework rather than focusing on changes within government.
This is an edited transcript of Community Care Review’s interview with Mr Head.