Social Services Regulation Reform

The Victorian Government is developing 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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Delayed commencement of the social services regulatory scheme

A Bill to delay commencement of the scheme passed Parliament on 1 September 2022. This means that the new social services regulatory scheme will now commence on 1 July 2024 for all social service providers within the scope of the scheme.

About the new regulatory framework

Across 2020 and 2021, new legislation (Social Services Regulation Act 2021) was drafted in consultation with stakeholders and passed into law in late 2021. The Act establishes a new regulatory framework for social services, which will help keep Victorians who use social services safe from harms such as abuse and neglect.

The initiatives in the Act will:

  • support safe service delivery, by applying same standards to services that share common risks
  • promote the human rights of service users, by requiring providers understand their role in protecting the human rights of those who use their services
  • operate efficiently, by clearly defining roles and responsibilities, and ensuring services face minimal overlap or duplication in reporting
  • provide contemporary monitoring and enforcement powers to a new regulator who will have authority to respond to risks of harm quickly and effectively
  • improve information sharing between regulators so that risk of harm to service users can be quickly identified and acted upon.

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 regulator.

The new scheme establishes an independent Social Services Regulator, which will replace the current Human Services Regulator. The Regulator will be appointed in mid 2023, and will commence monitoring compliance with the new scheme from 1 July 2024.

There will also be a new worker and carer exclusion scheme, replacing the Victorian Carers Register, to ensure that workers and carers in out of home care settings do not pose a risk of harm to service users.

The changed arrangements will lead to a more efficient system, and safer social services for all Victorians.

Who the new regulatory framework affects

Services within the scope of the new regulatory framework include:

  • out of home care services for children and young people, including secure care services
  • community based child and family services that are required to register under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 such as early parenting, intake services, Aboriginal liaison services and counselling services
  • disability services provided or funded by the department, including disability services provided or funded by the Transport Accident Commission or Workcover
  • supported residential services
  • family violence services including case management, support and accommodation services provided to people experiencing family violence and services for perpetrators
  • sexual assault services
  • homelessness services such as referral, support and accommodation services. 

Consultation and engagement

Between January 2022 and August 2023, regulations will be developed which will complete the legislative framework within which the new Regulator will operate.

The Victorian Government has established a taskforce to support and guide the development of the regulations, including service standards and the coverage of the regulatory scheme.

The taskforce is co-chaired by Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Parliamentary Secretary for Carers and Volunteers, Mr Josh Bull MP and independent government co-chair, Ms Susan Pascoe AM.

Ms Pascoe has an extensive background in government and non-government sectors. She is represented on numerous boards including the Board of Mercy Health and was the inaugural Commissioner for the charities regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission. Ms Pascoe is currently an Adjunct Professor at the University of Western Australia.

The taskforce comprises representatives with a deep knowledge of the social services sector, including representatives of providers and users of social services, as well as a First Nations representative and a regulatory expert.

The taskforce will be a key consultation mechanism with the social services sector. The taskforce held its first meeting on 4 April 2022. You can download the Social Services Regulation Taskforce terms of reference (Word).

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

An external consultant will be engaged to develop a Regulatory Impact Statement to support the draft regulations. The consultant’s work will include consulting with a sample of service providers to inform a cost benefit analysis of the draft regulations, which will be a key component of the Regulatory Impact Statement.

Timeline

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

Late 2021 Passage of legislation
April 2022 Establishment of a taskforce to inform draft regulations
2022 Targeted consultation and information sessions
Early 2023 Publish draft regulations and regulatory impact statement for public comment
Mid 2023 Regulator appointed
August 2023 Publish final regulations
1 July 2024

Worker and carer exclusion scheme commences, replacing the existing carers register

Commencement of the scheme for all in scope social services

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. Please email Regulations Reform at regulationreform@dffh.vic.gov.au if you would like to receive the presentation or any of these documents via email.

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 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?

Delayed commencement of the social services regulatory scheme

A Bill to delay commencement of the scheme passed Parliament on 1 September 2022. This means that the new social services regulatory scheme will now commence on 1 July 2024 for all social service providers within the scope of the scheme.

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

  • 1 July 2024 - Worker and carer exclusion scheme commences, replacing the existing carers register
  • 1 July 2024 - Commencement of the scheme for all in scope social services. 

The delayed commencement of the scheme to 1 July 2024 provides additional time for providers to understand their compliance obligations and for the Social Services Regulator to prepare for transition. For service providers who have not previously needed to register, such as family violence, sexual assault and homelessness support services, the passage of the Bill to delay commencement recognises they may need extra time to comply with the new registration requirements.

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.

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 will occur in 2022?

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.

Members of the taskforce comprise of social service advocates, representatives of providers and users of social services, an Aboriginal representative and a person with regulatory expertise.

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