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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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, who will replace the current Human Services Regulator. The Regulator will be appointed in or around August 2022, and will commence monitoring compliance with the new scheme from 1 July 2023.

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 that are not covered by the National Disability Insurance Scheme, 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 March 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
Mid 2022 Targeted consultation on the draft regulations
August 2022 Regulator appointed
Late 2022 Publish draft regulations and regulatory impact statement for public comment
January 2023 Social Services Regulator starts monitoring compliance with Child Safe Standards
March 2023 Regulations published (including social service standards)
July 2023 Staged commencement of regulatory activities (starting with services previously covered by the Victorian Human Services Regulator)
December 2023 Remaining services transition (all other in scope services)

More information

Access the Social Services Regulation Act 2021.

Contact us

General enquiries 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.

Towards the end of 2022, the government will publish the draft regulations to make sure we are building the best regulatory system possible.

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?

The reform will occur in phases to allow time for service providers to transition to the new arrangements.

Phase 1 – From 1 January 2023 

  • Social services regulator starts monitoring compliance with Child Safe Standards.  

Phase 2 – From 1 July 2023 

  • Worker and carer exclusion scheme commences, replacing the existing carers register.
  • Service providers already registered under existing schemes transition to the reforms. This includes supported residential services, disability services and children, youth and family services.
  • Some providers of family violence, sexual assault and homelessness services also transition to regulation, provided they are already registered to deliver the services above.  
  • Department delivered services new to formal regulation also transition. 

Phase 3 – By 31 December 2023 

  • Remaining in scope social service providers transition to regulation.
  • This includes providers already required to comply with the Human Services Standards (for example, family violence and homelessness services), funded by the Transport Accident Commission and WorkSafe.
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 will be a key consultation mechanism with the social services sector. To inform their work, taskforce members will consult 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 will comprise of social service advocates, representatives of providers and users of social services, an Aboriginal representative and a person with regulatory expertise.

In late 2022, the Regulatory Impact Assessment and draft regulations will be published. This will provide an opportunity for key stakeholders including providers, social service users and advocates, and the Victorian community to provide feedback in relation to the draft regulations before they are made into law in early 2023.