COMMUNITY VISITORS SCHEME
The Hon. E. M. OBEID: Will the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services inform the House of the details of his recent appointment of community visitors to monitor children in care and people with a disability living in accommodation services in New South Wales?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I am pleased to note that the appointment of community visitors is one of the most exciting and important initiatives of what is commonly called the CAMA legislation, the Community Services (Complaints, Appeals and Monitoring) Act, and the Government's commitment to citizens in its care. The community visitors scheme enables us to reach out into the community and to ensure that quality services are being provided to children and young people and to people with a disability in the care of both the Department of Community Services and non-government agencies. Up to 2,000 children are in care and more than 6,000 people with a disability are living in accommodation services in New South Wales. The community visitors will go into more than 650 government and privately run services which offer full-time accommodation for children requiring care and adults with a disability. The community visitors will advocate on behalf of people to improve the quality of their care. In particular, they will try to help people who have little or no family support.
The community visitors scheme is an expansion of the official visitors scheme in which, under the previous Government, there were only five people visiting government-run services - plainly inadequate for the task. I have appointed 40 visitors, chosen from more than 600 applicants incidentally, to provide me as Minister with an opportunity to get first-hand advice and an early warning check on potential problems affecting the welfare, interests and conditions of clients. More importantly, the scheme allows consumers to have a voice and to have access to vital advocacy services. Many issues in services will need to be monitored carefully. Some of the more important issues which concern me as Minister include: the overall standard of care and the maintenance of basic human rights for all consumers; establishing, maintaining and preserving vital family and community contacts; behaviour management practices; the level of participation by children and people in care in decision-making processes which affect them; communication; medication, diet and restraint practices in services; and the accessibility of
complaint avenues. Community visitors will report to me and to the Community Services Commission about any problems they can identify in accommodation services. Finally, I note that the visitors include young people who have been in care in the past, people with a disability, advocates and professionals.