Disability services

The Disability Royal Commission made a number of findings and recommendations on disability services.  

The Final Report does not include any autism specific recommendations in relation to disability services. However, it does include recommendations which may be interpreted as having particular relevance to Autistic people, and people with cognitive and intellectual disability (given the Commission’s findings). These recommendations may be of particular interest and relevance to some members of the autism community. They were informed by evidence from Autistic people and their families and supporters. 

For an Easy Read version of the Commission’s report on ‘Disability services’, visit here  

What the Commission found

  • People with cognitive disability who do not have the support of families or advocates may be particularly vulnerable to service providers and their staff misappropriating funds.  
  • Restrictive practices have commonly been used against people with cognitive disability, including autism, in disability services. 
  • Thin markets (limited availability of service providers, particularly in rural and remote areas) limit access to disability services for people who have complex support needs. 
  • People with intellectual or cognitive disability, particularly those with high communication support needs in supported accommodation, experience additional barriers to making complaints about service providers and this impacts their likelihood of making complaints to oversight bodies. 
  • People with cognitive disability who have the most complex support needs often do not receive assistance from appropriately skilled or experienced behaviour support practitioners. 
  • Substantial improvements in the availability and implementation of behaviour support assessments and related plans are needed to reduce or eliminate the use of restrictive practices in Australia.  
  • Reliable national data is not collected on the extent to which psychotropic drugs are prescribed for people with cognitive disability, or the purposes for prescription, such as treatment of a diagnosed condition or responding to behaviours of concern.  

What the Commission recommended

While the Commission’s recommendations regarding disability services are not stated to be specific to Autistic people, or people with cognitive or intellectual disability, the context of the Commission’s findings above suggests that the following recommendations may be of specific relevance to these cohorts. 

  1. Recommendation 10.3: Ensure that participants in the NDIS identified as being at heightened risk of violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation, particularly those living in supported accommodation, have funding for support coordination included in their NDIS plans.  
  2. Recommendation 10.5: Co-design a program to connect NDIS participants living in supported accommodation with an appropriate disability advocacy organisation.  
  3. Recommendation 10.6: Amend the NDIS (Quality Indicators for NDIS Practice Safeguards) Guidelines 2018 to reflect that participants have a right to supported decision making in disability services.  
  4. Recommendation 10.7: Co-design a practice guide on supported decision-making for service providers.  
  5. Recommendation 10.10: Fund and arrange a co-designed provider of last resort scheme, including to address thin markets, improve access to services and to provide access to case management for those most vulnerable to mistreatment. 
  6. Recommendation 10.20: Make the complaints process more accessible, including through adjustments, assisting people to access advocacy and other services and implementing a strategy for hard-to-reach groups.  
  7. Recommendation 10.24: Improve access to behaviour support practitioners, including through incentives, partnerships, professional development and accreditation, and an accessible list of available practitioners. 

To read the Commission’s final report in full on ‘Disability services’, visit here.   

Some of the lived experience stories shared by the autism community

  • The sister of an Autistic man with intellectual disability shared that since the introduction of the NDIS, she had significant difficulties securing supports and services for her brother without the assistance of a case manager. She spoke of the considerable toll navigating the system had taken on her life.   
  • Victoria and James shared that their Autistic nephew, Mitchell, received a threatening letter while living in supported accommodation. Despite expressing their concerns to human services that the letter may have been from a support worker; no appropriate action was taken to find the source of the letter. This caused significant distress and a loss of trust and confidence in human services.   
  • Karen provided evidence about extensive physical harm sustained by her son Daniel, who is Autistic and has an intellectual disability and limited speech, while he was living in a group home.    
  • Sally, mother of Afford who is Autistic and has high communication support needs, shared about the lack of communication between her son’s group home and herself. She gave evidence that they could go weeks without any communication and that it was difficult to know what was happening on a day-to-day basis. She made a complaint but received no response, she was also unable to obtain incident reports following incidents involving her son. The Commission found that Afford’s group home did not have adequate systems in place for families to receive regular information or reports, to be notified of any issues or concerns or to make suggestions or provide feedback for service improvements.  

Do you need more information or support?

If you would like more information about these findings or recommendations or have any questions about the Commission or its report, we encourage you to contact Your Story Disability Legal Support on 1800 77 1800, online here or by email here.   We appreciate that reading this page and hearing the lived experience stories shared may raise mixed emotions and cause anxiety or distress for many people. If you, or someone you know, needs support, the following services are available.

  • National Counselling and Referral Service at Blue Knot – 1800 421 468 or visit the website.
  • Beyond Blue 24/7 Support – 1300 224 636 or visit the website.
  • Lifeline 24/7 Crisis Support – 13 11 14 or visit the website.
  • 1800 Respect – 1800 737 722 or visit the website.
  • Disability Gateway – 1800 643 787 or visit the website.
  • 13 YARN – 13 92 76 or visit the website.
  • If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, contact triple zero (000).
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