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.
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Given the extent of forecast change at the national level following the Disability Royal Commission and the NDIS Review, the Disability and Social Services Regulation Amendment Bill 2024 currently before the Parliament is unlikely to progress prior to 1 July 2024. This means the Worker and Carer Exclusion Scheme will start on 1 July 2024. Please refer to Changes to the regulation of social services for more information.

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 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

On 1 February 2024 the Government announced proposed regulatory reforms to improve regulatory oversight and make the system easier to navigate for people with disability. The proposed reforms include:

  • merging the functions of the Disability Services Commissioner with the new Social Services Regulator on 1 July this year
  • delaying the start of the Worker and Carer Exclusion Scheme covering residential, foster care and secure care workers and carers
    • these first two elements were part of the Disability and Social Services Regulation Amendment Bill 2024 currently before the Victorian Parliament.
  • introducing a dedicated complaints mechanism for social services within the next two years
  • merging the functions of the Victorian Disability Worker Commissioner and Disability Worker Registration Board of Victoria into the Social Services Regulator within the next two years

Given the extent of forecast change at a national level following the wide-ranging recommendations of both the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, and the NDIS Review, the bill currently before the Victorian Parliament is unlikely to progress prior to 1 July. This means that:

  • the Disability Services Commissioner will continue until legislation is passed.  Current arrangements for providing, investigating and resolving complaints about Victorian Government-funded disability providers will continue.
  • the Worker and Carer Exclusion Scheme for workers and carers of children and young people in residential, foster care and secure care will start as originally planned on 1 July 2024 as part of the new Social Services Regulator.

Many of the key requirements for providers of residential care, secure care, and foster care will not change, or will not change substantially – see below for further information.

The government remains committed to simplifying and strengthening the regulation of social services in Victoria and will continue to engage with the sector to ensure the proposed reforms meet the needs of children and young people in care, their families, carers, workers and providers.

Update on the Worker and Carer Exclusion Scheme – now commencing 1 July 2024

As the Disability and Social Services Regulation Amendment Bill 2024 is unlikely to progress prior to 1 July, 2024 the Worker and Carer Exclusion Scheme for workers and carers of children and young people in residential, foster care and secure care will start on 1 July 2024.

The Worker and Carer Exclusion Scheme will replace the current Victorian Carer Register and the Suitability Panel.

The Worker and Carer Exclusion Scheme is designed to exclude workers and carers. It prevents carers of children and young people in residential, foster care and secure care - from caring for or working in the out-of-home care sector if their behaviour demonstrates an unjustifiable risk of harm to children and young people. It increases protections for children and young people care by expanding the kind of behaviour that can result in a worker or carer being excluded from working.

The Department has developed questions and answers to support providers, workers and carers to understand and transition to the Worker and Carer Exclusion Scheme. This includes information about: 

  • what providers need to do to transition to the Worker and Carer Exclusion Scheme
  • what it means for workers and carers.

Download the Disability and Social Services Regulation Amendment Bill 2024 – Information for social services Sector Q&A (Word)

Further guidance is being developed by the Social Services Regulator, outlining what workers, carers and providers need to do to comply with the scheme. This guidance will be published on the Social Services Regulator website

About the Social Services Regulator

The Government appointed Jonathan Kaplan as the inaugural Social Services Regulator in February 2024. Mr Kaplan is a highly experienced senior public servant.

Before his appointment, Mr Kaplan was the CEO of the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority, which regulates education and training in schools and vocational education and training providers.

Learn more about the new Regulator on the Social Services Regulator website

For questions about the Social Services Regulator, email enquiries@ssr.vic.gov.au.

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.

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

1 July 2024Start of the social services regulatory scheme 
Start of the Worker and Carer Exclusion Scheme 
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.

Access the Social Services Regulations 2023.

Access the Social Services (Supported Residential Services) Regulations 2024.

Contact us

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

Download documents

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 streamlines 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. 

1 July 2024 – Worker and Carer Exclusion Scheme for workers and carers of children and young people in residential, foster care and secure care commences

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 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 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. 

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

In mid-2023, the Regulatory Impact Assessment and draft regulations were published for public consultation. This provided 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 were made in November 2023.

The department consulted with stakeholders in late 2023 to develop regulations for the supported residential services sector which were finalised and published in March 2024.