Volunteers Need Acknowledgement in NDIS Safeguards
2 August 2017 at 11:14 am
Peak Body Volunteering Australia wants the role of volunteers to be fully acknowledged in new legislation aimed at protecting people with disability from poor quality or unsafe services under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
The call comes in a submission to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment (Quality and Safeguards Commission and Other Measures) Bill 2017.
The NDIS Amendment Bill 2017 was introduced by the federal government to protect and prevent people with disability from experiencing poor quality or unsafe supports or services under the scheme.
“Volunteering Australia believes that to ensure that the NDIS adequately recognises and resources Volunteer Involving Organisations, Volunteering Support Services and volunteers, it is essential that volunteering is fully recognised in the Bill, and by the Quality and Safeguards Commission.
“Volunteering Australia supports the amendment in the Bill to repeal the definition as it currently stands, and instead include those engaged on a voluntary basis,” the submission said.
In February 2017, the Disability Reform Council released the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Framework that addressed many of the issues raised during the 2015 Senate Inquiry into violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability in institutional and residential settings. The framework was developed in consultation with people with disability, carers, providers, and peak bodies over a three-year period.
Volunteering Australia’s response specifically responded to the National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment (Quality and Safeguards Commission and Other Measures) Bill 2017 and its relation to volunteer involvement.
“This includes the expectations of both providers (Volunteer Involving Organisations) and workers (volunteers), the costs involved in engaging volunteers safely in the NDIS, the role volunteers can play in supporting people with disability to respond to violence, abuse and neglect, the social capital derived from volunteer engagement, and the need to ensure there is adequate representation of the voice of volunteering in quality and safeguard structures,” the submission said.
“The volunteer workforce has been critical in the roll-out of the NDIS and the delivery of key NDIS programs, supports, and services.”
Volunteering Australia said the NDIA could play an important role in informing people with disability of volunteer opportunities available within the NDIS, and the community more broadly, and how their needs might be met.
“Equally, people with disability can also be engaged through volunteering as an end unto itself,” the submission said.
A summary of Volunteering Australia’s recommendations includes:
- the committee amends Schedule 1, Part 1, Section 9 (definition of officer) of the Bill, to repeal the definition as it currently stands, and instead include those engaged on a voluntary basis;
- that the NDIA play a more prominent role in informing people with disability of volunteer opportunities available within the NDIS, and how their needs may be met;
- that people with disability be engaged through volunteering as an end unto itself;
- that for the effective delivery of supports and services, education and training should be in line with the National Standards for Volunteer Involvement;
- the use of the National Standards for Volunteer Involvement as a best-practice guide for volunteer participation in the NDIS;
- that people with disability, volunteers and representative organisations, such as Volunteering Involving Organisations, should be built into quality and safeguarding structures;
- the preservation of the National Disability Advocacy Program (NDAP), given the key role it plays in supporting people with disability and their advocates; and
- whistleblower provisions be extended to include volunteers and their providers (such as Volunteer Involving Organisations).
“While volunteering is ‘time willingly given’, volunteering is not free, and comes at a significant cost to NDIS service providers. The operational costs of delivering volunteering programs that are responsive to the needs of the disability support sector is increasing, and requires long-term investment,” Volunteering Australia CEO Adrienne Picone told Pro Bono News.
“It is essential that NDIS quality and safeguarding structures are representative of those they serve. We need to ensure that people with disability, volunteers, Volunteering Support Services and Volunteer Involving organisations are inserted into quality and safeguarding structures, and have a say on the policy that affects them,” Picone said.
“The outcome of a lack of consultation and collaboration is poor policies that aren’t safe, supportive or effective.
“Volunteers can play a unique role in helping people with disability develop meaningful relationships and reduce social isolation. The social capital that can be derived from volunteer engagement in the NDIS is of profound benefit to both participants and volunteers, and should be encouraged and supported.”
Download the Volunteering Australia submission here.