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SA Govt to tighten laws on restraining people with disability

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The controversial practices of restraining, sedating or confining people with disability to control their behaviour will only be allowed as a last resort under proposed legislation to be introduced to state parliament early next year.

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It comes after the ongoing Disability Royal Commission uncovered that some people with disability were subject to concerning unregulated restrictive practices, including physical and chemical restraints, confinement, segregation and exclusion by disability service providers, medical professionals and schools.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme Quality and Safeguards Commission defines restrictive practices as interventions that restrict the rights of freedom or movement of a person to protect themselves or others from harm.

Previously, medical professionals and disability services used restrictive practices as a first response for people who displayed concerning behaviours, but it is now commonly recognised that doing so can infringe people’s human rights.

Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink said she would introduce the Disability Inclusion (Restrictive Practices) Amendment Bill to state parliament early next year to provide “robust protection” for National Disability Insurance Scheme participants of all ages.

“The use of restrictive practices has rightly drawn the concern of multiple royal commissions and disability rights campaigners and in South Australia, (we) will now be aligned to the national principles and be established in a way that puts the rights of people with disability front and centre in decision-making,” she said.

“From January, the Department of Human Services (will) consult with people with disability, their carers and families to inform the policy direction ahead of the proposed Bill’s introduction to Parliament early in the new year, and to support the development of the regulations.”

The State Government will spend $5.8 million over four years to establish a new regulatory scheme and restrictive practice authorisation unit within the Department of Human Services, which would oversee the regulation required under proposed legislation.

The proposed scheme is set to authorise two levels of restrictive practices.

Low-level restrictive practices include “environmental restraints” such as locking cupboards and would be authorised by an approved officer employed by a NDIS service provider.

High-level restrictive practices are more intrusive and include physical restraints and seclusion. Those practices would only be able to be authorised by a Department of Human Services approved officer.

“South Australia’s new scheme for the authorisation of restrictive practices will better protect the safety, welfare and dignity of some of the most vulnerable people in our community,” Lensink said.

The funding would also be used to provide training for registered NDIS providers, as well as regular onsite assistance to ensure providers comply with the proposed new regulations.

Consultation on the Bill will start this week and end on January 29 via the Government’s YourSAy website.

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