Motions: Community Visitor Scheme

Wednesday October 30, 2019

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (11:50): I rise to speak on this motion and recognise the important role services such as the Community Visitor Scheme play in giving vulnerable people in our society a voice. Since 2011, the scheme has given clients and their families advocacy and assistance to ensure that not only are services appropriate to the needs but that also there is an independent person who has their best interests at heart. These trained volunteers perform regular visits and inspections of supported residential and mental health facilities and disability accommodation, and they can also make inquiries into ongoing client treatment and care. They provide a report that goes back to the Principal Community Visitor, who can then act accordingly and work to resolve these concerns.

All of us have a fundamental right to be treated with dignity and respect and to speak out when we believe our rights have been breached. When we entrust our care or the care of a loved one to a care or treatment facility, we put our faith in the system, and the rights of those with a disability or mental illness can be lost. Never has it been more important to have processes to protect these rights and also have checks and balances when these rights are breached.

The fact that we have an upcoming royal commission into violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with a disability clearly demonstrates the need for independent eyes on this sector. When submissions are aired, I expect there will come shocks and sobering facts for all of us about how people with a disability have been treated. However, commissions also have the potential to lead to major change and an overhaul of regulations and legislation if needed. I expect a common theme in the commission to be around the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

There are around 32,000 people with a disability in this state who have undergone major changes to services and life in general as a result of the implementation of this scheme. In my electorate of Mount Gambier, I have heard from local families who have waited lengthy periods to have their plans accepted and difficulties in accessing funding and not being able to access the same services as they had prior. Following the transition to NDIS, the role of the CVS in South Australia is limited to the services either provided or funded by the state government. This means that CVS visitors no longer have the authority to visit the homes of people with a disability, and service providers cannot invite the CVS to inspect private homes or facilities.

To raise concerns about services through non-government organisations, disability clients and their families now have the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, an independent commonwealth body. The commission has a range of quality checks, such as audits, registration and complaint handling, and will visit clients if concerns are raised through a combination of these checks. Meanwhile, the Community Visitor Scheme will continue to visit state government funded accommodation sites and, as Minister for Human Services, Michelle Lensink recently announced that the CVS has been extended to include people with disability under the guardianship of the Public Advocate. This includes around 550 National Disability Insurance Scheme participants who are currently under guardianship.

A measure of a society is how we deal with our most vulnerable citizens. We are coming up to a period of change for both the mental health and disability sectors. Schemes like the CVS act as a valuable early intervention tool, and they are also an opportunity for real change at ground level. In closing, I would like to commend the many people across South Australia who give or have given their time to this service.