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New laws to strengthen disability worker screening in Australia

Businesswoman and colleague in a wheelchair handshaking in a business meeting

New legislation has been introduced into the Queensland Parliament today to establish a nationally consistent worker screening system for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Minister for Seniors and Disability Services and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Craig Crawford said the Disability Services and Other Legislation (Worker Screening) Bill had been introduced to replace the existing disability screening system, strengthen safeguards for people with disability and streamline processes.

“This Bill will enhance safeguards for NDIS participants by expanding the range of offences that will automatically disqualify people from being able to provide services under the scheme,” Mr Crawford said.

“This Bill puts the safety of people with disability first and will ensure that individuals convicted of very concerning offences, including sexual and serious assault offences committed against children and vulnerable people, will not be able to provide services under the NDIS.

“Additionally, the Bill ensures that when making decisions about whether applicants should be issued with a clearance, the focus will be on whether or not there is an unacceptable risk of harm to people with disability.”

A broader range of information will be considered as part of the check to make sure there is a comprehensive assessment of risk.

Mr Crawford said the Bill would enable the monitoring of a clearance holders’ criminal history across all states and territories.

“This means that if someone commits an offence in another state or territory, we will know about it and be able to take action to assess whether the person should be issued with an exclusion,” he said.

“This will strengthen the system and support us to be able to make clearances valid for five years, reducing red-tape for service providers and individuals.

“Clearances will also be portable across states and territories, which will support the operation of the NDIS as a national scheme”.

Importantly, the department’s Chief Executive will have greater powers to be able to suspend a clearance if a change occurs and there is an unacceptable risk of harm to people with disability.

Mr Crawford said the Bill also included provisions to enable Queensland to operate a state disability worker screening system for certain disability services it continues to fund, or deliver, which don’t fall under the NDIS.

“The evidence that we are hearing in the course of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability is a stark reminder of the criticality of ensuring appropriate safeguards within our service systems,” he said.

“I am proud, as the Minister for Seniors and Disability Services and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, that I can introduce this Bill and help to enhance safeguards under the NDIS.”

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