NDIA Commission Lauch 1 July 2018

The new financial year brings new government oversight of behaviour support. In NSW where we are based, the state system has now fully transitioned (more or less) to the new national system.

This means that disability service providers will face new regulations and standards for behaviour support practice. The NDIA Commission’s new website just launched provides the detailed legislative instruments that will guide and direct upcoming changes and management of behaviour support as well as other functions of governance across the sector.

Disability service providers until now have been managing within a transitional environment. For the past five or so years, this context includes the disbanding of state based agencies like the Department of Ageing Disability and Homecare. In the absence of state based leadership, disability non-gov organisations have been responsible to govern behaviour support policy and practice still under the state established guidelines. Effectively, many organisations have struggled in the wake of NDIS transitions where due to funding shortages they may have let go of staff, not had resources to hire behaviour support practitioners for review of cases, and not been able to maintain independent oversight of clinical services through restrictive practices analysis, authorisation, and review.

In all likelihood, most multi-service option organisations will be doing the catch up, with many people waiting on clinical reviews, and many more individuals carrying old and outdated behaviour support plans. These plans, and the ideally holistic and generative clinical oversight that they represent, are the foundation of positive person centred behaviour support practice.

Alongside, NSW has a history of major investments in capacity building across the disability sector. For example, for over a decade past, Stronger Together reforms established behaviour support practices across the state and offered skills training to NGOs across the sector. Also parallel, the current reality on the ground appears to suggest that the disability NGO sector cannot sustain behaviour support practices without significant independent input by clinicians and specialists. Such expertise tends to be rare, particularly in rural Australia.

The reforms ahead will be interesting to say the least. NDIA Commission led reforms will need to provide vital sector wide leadership as well as provide a conduit for seasoned clinical advice. In saying this, we acknowledge that behaviour support policy and practice are a backbone to the disability services sector – and have held an historical and key society wide leadership role in the spread of positive behaviour support practices and standards.

Where individuals have behaviours of concern, these often touch on every other aspect of life, lifestyle, health, relationships, and community participation. As a field that represents fundamental human rights to dignity and fair treatment, positive behaviour support standards represent key international and national guidelines. The NDIS and now its Commission has a key role in Australia to forward these standards for the wellbeing of Australians.