Know Your Rights! (As A Consumer)
Working as a behaviour analyst with people with autism and intellectual disabilities, we need to ensure we are putting the needs of the client and their welfare, first and foremost.
Working in a person-centred way involves many different things, but one thing that is essential for someone who chooses to engage a service, either on their own, or with the support of their family and friends, needs to understand what their rights are, as a consumer, and how they can ensure they get their needs met.
Specifically, with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in action, around Australia, there has been a lot of information provider to both participants and providers about beginning services. It is essential that both participants of services, as well as service providers, are aware of what this information means, for them. Below are a few things that I believe are essential for anyone who is working within the NDIS framework, to be familiar with.
A service agreement sets out what service will be provided, who for, how long for, how much it will cost, and what the outcomes will be, how you can suspend the service and exit. It is usually provided during initial sessions, and most service providers will have a template they use. As a consumer, and a participant of the NDIS, you are able to make changes where you feel it is needed. Likewise, the provider does not necessarily have to agree to those changes, but you can discuss what you both need, and hopefully come to an agreement that suits both of you.
The NDIS has provided a template for service providers, or participants, if they are self-managing, to use, which is a good starting point.
If you begin a service and you haven’t signed a service agreement, you may find it difficult to know what to expect from the service provider. It is good practice as a service provider to provide this information, up front.
While this is obviously not the most positive thing to discuss, it is important to know how to make a complaint (and likewise, know how to provide compliments for a job well done!) This should be included in the service agreement, and should provide multiple pathways to have your concerns heard. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking directly to your provider, there are other avenues you can pursue.
If you need to take your complaint further, you can contact the Commonwealth Ombudsman – http://www.ombudsman.gov.au/. The NDIS is a federal scheme, so you need to contact the Ombudsman responsible for national government agencies.
You can submit information online, and they will be in touch to let you know the next steps. The Ombudsman service is a fair, impartial service, that will help you resolve your concern.
Disability Services Standards
Intertwined with all of this information, are the Disability Service Standards.
“The National Standards for Disability Services (National Standards) will help to promote and drive a nationally consistent approach to improving the quality of services. They focus on rights and outcomes for people with disability. The National Standardswere first produced in 1993.”
Australian Government – Department of Social Services
The six standards are:
2. Participation and Inclusion
3. Individual Outcomes
4. Feedback and Complaints
5. Service Access
6. Service Management
More information can be found here.
These six standards need to be considered by any service provider, wishing to provide a service, and as a participant, you should be able to expect a service that ensures those six standards are met.
It is a lot of information to consider, from both a participant, family member or carer, as well as a service provider, but is essential that this information is considered when providing services to vulnerable populations.