Social Services Regulation Reform

The Victorian Government is putting in place a new regulatory framework to help keep people who use Victoria’s social services safe from avoidable harms such as abuse and neglect.
On this page:

About the new regulatory framework

The Social Services Regulation Act 2021 establishes a new framework for social services in Victoria. It begins on 1 July 2024.

The initiatives in the Act will:

  • support the safe delivery of social services
  • ensure social service providers understand their role in protecting the rights of social service users
  • define roles and responsibilities of social service providers
  • give the new regulator monitoring and enforcement powers, so they can respond to risks of harm
  • improve information sharing between regulators so they can identify and respond to any risks of harm to service users.

The new system will mean Victorian social service providers will have:

  • streamlined registration and reporting requirements,
  • a common set of social service standards
  • a single independent regulator.

The Social Services Regulator will replace the current Human Services Regulator. The new regulator will be appointed early in 2024.

The new system will be more efficient and create a safer environment for all Victorians. 

Who the new regulatory framework affects

Services within the scope of the new regulatory framework include:

  • some services the department delivers, including child protection services and secure welfare services
  • out of home care services for children and young people
  • community-based child and family services including early parenting, intake services, Aboriginal child specialist advice support services and counselling services
  • disability services offered or funded by the department, or funded by the Transport Accident Commission or WorkSafe
  • supported residential services
  • family violence services such as case management, support, and accommodation services (for those at risk of or who have experienced family violence) and services for perpetrators
  • sexual assault services such as specialist services for survivors of sexual assault and specialist harmful sexual behaviour services
  • homelessness services such as assessment, case management, support and accommodation services.

Changes to the regulation of social services

Some changes are coming for the regulation of social services in Victoria.

The Government has announced that Jonathan Kaplan will be appointed as the Social Services Regulator. Mr Kaplan is a highly experienced senior public servant. 

Most recently, Mr Kaplan has been the CEO of the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority, which regulates education and training in schools and vocational education and training providers.

As the education sector regulator for child-safe standards, Mr Kaplan is experienced at working with co-regulators and a diverse range of stakeholders in a complex environment.

Also, the functions of the Disability Services Commissioner will be merged into the Social Services Regulator (the regulator) in mid-2024, subject to legislation being passed by the Victorian Parliament.

The government has also announced that in the longer term, the Victorian Disability Worker Commissioner and Disability Worker Registration Board will also merge into the Regulator.

The Regulator will commence on 1 July 2024 along with the new regulatory scheme for social services.

The government will also introduce a new complaints system that will cover all social services covered by the Regulator. This will create one location that allows service users and providers to resolve complaints.

It is expected that the Victorian Disability Worker Commissioner and Disability Worker Registration Board and the new complaints function will merge with the Regulator during 2026.

The rights of people with disability remain a key priority for the Victorian Government.

These entities play a vital role in resolving complaints about disability workers and services. They will continue to ensure people with disability are protected from harm, abuse and neglect and receive safe and high-quality services.

This means there will be no reduction in protections for disability service users. The new arrangements will:

  • make things more efficient
  • ensure that protections for people with a disability are delivered in a more effective way
  • address gaps in the safeguarding arrangements for Victorians accessing social services.

Learn more about the new Social Services Regulator on the Premier of Victoria website.

Key dates

These dates are dependent on legislation passing.

  • 1 July 2024: The Social Services Regulator is formally established, and the social services regulatory scheme begins.
  • Mid-2024: Disability Services Commission functions is merged into Social Services Regulator.
  • 2026: VDWC and Disability Worker Registration Board of Victoria functions are merged into the Social Services Regulator. Complaints function is expected to begin.
  • 2026: Worker and Carer Exclusion Scheme delayed, intended to commence on or before 1 July 2026.

For any questions on these changes, please contact regulationreform@dffh.vic.gov.au

Delay of the Worker and Carer Exclusion Scheme

The Worker and Carer Exclusion Scheme is part of the new regulatory framework. The Scheme will replace the Victorian Carer Register and the Suitability Panel.

The government is proposing to introduce a bill that will delay the start of the Worker and Carer Exclusion Scheme for up to 2 years.

The proposed delay means the Worker and Carer Exclusion Scheme will not start when the new social services regulatory framework begins on 1 July 2024.  The Worker and Carer Exclusion Scheme will start no later than 1 July 2026.

Delaying the start of the Worker and Carer Exclusion Scheme will:

  • allow out of home care sector to focus on moving to the social services regulatory framework on 1 July 2024
  • provide more time to put in place the new Worker and Carer Exclusion Scheme.

Existing protections for children and young people will continue. The Victorian Carer Register and the Suitability Panel will operate until the Worker and Carer Exclusion Scheme starts.

Administration of the Victorian Carers Register will transfer from the Human Services Regulator to the Social Services Regulator from 1 July 2024. 

Consultation and engagement

Social Services Regulation Taskforce

The Social Services Regulation Taskforce supports and guides the development of the regulations for the framework.

The Taskforce is co-chaired by:

  • Iwan Walters MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Disability
  • Adjunct Professor Ms Susan Pascoe AM.  

Ms Pascoe has an extensive background in government and non-government sectors. She represents many boards including the Board of Mercy Health. Ms Pascoe was the first Commissioner for the charity's regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission. Ms Pascoe is currently an Adjunct Professor at the University of Western Australia.

Taskforce representatives have a deep knowledge of social services and help consult with the sector. Representatives include:

  • social service users and providers
  • a First Nations representative
  • a regulatory expert. 

Download the Social Services Regulation Taskforce terms of reference (Word)

External consultation

The department consulted with internal and external stakeholders to help develop the regulations. Public consultation on the draft regulations and the Regulatory Impact Statement was held from 26 May to 16 July 2023. This consultation was published on Engage Victoria.

Regulations specific to the supported residential services sector are being developed separately and will be published in early 2024.

The department also consulted with stakeholders to develop the supported residential services regulations. This consultation occurred in 2023.
 

Timeline

The following are indicative timelines for the new regulatory scheme to operate:

Late 2021Passage of legislation
April 2022Establishment of a taskforce to inform the draft regulations
2022-2023Targeted consultation and information sessions
26 May to 16 July 2023Publish draft regulations and regulatory impact statement for public comment
Late 2023

Final regulations published

Transitional regulations published

Targeted consultations on supported residential services regulations 

Early 2024

Regulator appointed

Supported residential services regulations published

July 2024Start of the social services regulatory 
1 July 2024 to 30 June 2025 

Registration will be automatically transferred for secure welfare services and services already required to be registered with the Human Services Regulator.  This includes:

  • disability services registered under the Disability Act 2006
  • children, youth and family services registered under the Children Youth and Families Act 2005
  • supported residential services registered under the Supported Residential Services (Private Proprietors) Act 2010. 

Services not currently required to be registered under one of these Acts will apply for registration in a phased manner. This includes:

  • family violence services
  • sexual assault services
  • homelessness services
  • some services offered or funded by:
    • the department
    • Transport Accident Commission
    • WorkSafe. 

For more information on when and how the Regulator will invite social service providers to submit registration applications, download the Social services regulatory scheme – staggered registration – information for existing social service providers.

More information

Access the Social Services Regulation Act 2021.

Contact us

General enquiries email: regulationreform@dffh.vic.gov.au

Download documents

A PowerPoint presentation from our public information sessions is also available. If you would like to receive a copy of the presentation, please email regulationreform@dffh.vic.gov.au.

Frequently asked questions

Why is the government setting up a new regulatory scheme?

Every Victorian deserves to be able to access the social services they need safely.

The government is setting up a new Social Services Regulator to oversee social services with the primary consideration of reducing or preventing harms to social service users. The new system will also streamline registration and reporting requirements for most social service providers so they can focus on frontline service delivery.

Why is this important?

Currently, the Disability Act 2006, Supported Residential Services Act (Private Proprietors) Act 2010, and the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005, provide different registration, reporting and regulatory requirements. This means that there are different rules in place for different service providers depending on which Act they are registered under. The differences in each Act also mean that some service providers are subject to overlapping regulatory schemes, resulting in duplication of reporting requirements.

The Act proposes extensive amendments to existing legislation to streamline registration, reporting and regulation to promote the safe delivery of social services and protect the rights of service users. This will minimise risks of avoidable harm and improve the quality of social services.

When will the changes take place?

1 July 2024 – Scheme commencement for secure welfare services and services currently required to be registered with the Human Services Regulator. The registrations of these providers will be automatically transferred to the new scheme. 

From 1 July 2024 to 30 June 2025 - services not currently required to be registered with the Human Services Regulator will apply for registration with the new Social Services Regulator. 

This will be phased according to the various social service sectors via a staggered registration process. This means the Social Services Regulator will invite providers to submit registration applications. The order will be: 

  • 1 July to  31 July 2024 – child protection services and forensic disability services provided by the department 
  • 1 August to 30 September 2024 – family violence services funded by the department will apply for registration from 
  • 1 October to  31 December 2024 – homelessness services funded by the department (excluding community and public housing) 
  • 1 January to 31 March 2025 – sexual assault services funded by the department 
  • 1 April to  30 June 2025 – disability services funded by the Transport Accident Commission or WorkSafe that are not registered under the Disability Act 2006.

The Regulator must assess the provider’s registration application within 60 days of receiving it. It could take longer than 60 days if the Regulator needs more information from the service provider. Providers can continue to operate the service while the Regulator is assessing the application.

What is the worker and carer exclusion scheme?

The worker and carer exclusion scheme is designed to address risks posed by individual workers and carers that require additional interventions. 

Service providers will ask the Regulator to check a worker or carer against the excluded worker and carer database, before engaging the person for the first time.

The start of the scheme is being delayed by up to two 2 years until 1 July 2026 to give the out of home care sector time to prepare for the scheme.

What benefits will these changes bring?

The social services sector has reported gaps, inconsistencies in regulation, unnecessary regulatory overlaps and complex requirements.

There are many social service providers that provide services across different areas. They are currently subject to multiple regulatory schemes, leading to regulatory burden. The new changes will provide flexibility for regulatory bodies to work together to maximise safeguards, while at the same time minimising duplication of reporting for most service providers.

Strengthening the regulatory framework for social services providers is an opportunity to promote the safe delivery of social services and protect the rights of service users to minimise the risks of avoidable harm.

What consultation occurred?

Between 2019 and 2021, the department consulted key stakeholders including representatives of the social services sector and services users, which informed the development of the legislation.

In April 2022, the Victorian Government established a taskforce to help develop and guide the regulations required to operationalise the new scheme. The taskforce is a key consultation mechanism with the social services sector. To inform their work, taskforce members are consulting as appropriate with social service providers, service users and experts.

We will continue to consult with stakeholders internally, externally and across government in 2023.

In mid-2023, the Regulatory Impact Assessment and draft regulations will be published for public consultation. This will provide an opportunity for stakeholders including providers, social service users, advocates, and the Victorian community to provide feedback in relation to the draft regulations before they are made in late 2023.

The department consulted with stakeholders internally, externally and across government in late 2023 to develop regulations for the supported residential services sector.