‘Safe, secure and affordable?’ The need for an inquiry into supported accommodation in Queensland
In Queensland, level 3 residential services, also known as supported accommodation, provide accommodation, personal care services, and often food services, to residents. Level 3 residential services are privately owned and are typically operated on a for-profit basis, but are regulated by the Department of Housing under the Residential Services (Accreditation) Act 2002 (Qld).
Residents of level 3 residential services are often people who have experienced challenges in finding and securing alternative, appropriate accommodation, have support needs that have not been met through other systems, or have difficulty accessing the support that they require to maintain their preferred housing arrangements. They often also experience difficulty in exercising choice and control over their supports and services.
Many residents are therefore at risk of abuse, neglect, and exploitation due to the challenges that lead them to engage with level 3 residential services.
This report explores issues relating to level 3 residential services in Queensland, drawing on consultations with stakeholders from 22 organisations, including government agencies, advocacy organisations, and service providers involved in the delivery of, or that engage routinely with, housing or homelessness services.
Stakeholders noted that the quality of level 3 residential services varies across providers. They described a range of issues that affect the human rights, well-being, and safety of residents in these settings, including:
- Unsuitable physical environments, including issues with hygiene and cleanliness, accessibility, and appropriateness for people with disability;
- Poorly maintained environments that create safety and privacy risks;
- A general lack of space and privacy for residents;
- Strict house rules that limit residents’ freedom and choice;
- Poor food quality and/or an inadequate amount of food;
- Limited access to food or snacks outside of designated meal times;
- Difficulty accessing external service providers such as health care providers or advocates;
- Difficulty accessing the broader community;
- Challenges with relationships between residents, which can lead to conflict and concerns about personal safety; and
- Inadequate support services to meet residents’ needs, or poor quality of support services.
In addition to concerns about the standard of accommodation, food and personal care services provided to residents, stakeholders also described a number of systemic issues relating to the level 3 residential services sector, including:
- Complex regulatory and legislative frameworks involving all levels of government. While the legislative environment is complex, key elements critical to the wellbeing of residents are also not addressed, including a regulated fees and charges schedule.
- Fragmented and disjointed safeguarding mechanisms.
- Blurred lines of responsibility and potential conflicts of interest resulting from the dual role of providers as accommodation and service providers. This is heightened if residents are also NDIS participants, as many level 3 residential service providers (or closely related entities) are also NDIS service providers.
- The potential for level 3 residential services to be closed environments where residents have limited access to externally provided services or opportunities to participate in broader community life.
- The suitability of this model of accommodation and service provision to meet the needs of residents with complex support needs, many of whom have an intellectual disability, acquired brain injury, mental health concerns or issues with drug and alcohol use.
The insights shared by stakeholders highlight the complexity of the sector and the need for further investigation into how the human rights, safety and wellbeing of residents can be better supported. There is also a need for further discussion about the role of level 3 residential services in the broader housing and support sector, and how services should be regulated to maintain quality and ensure the best outcomes for residents.
The report includes only one recommendation – that a Parliamentary Inquiry be conducted into the provision and regulation of Supported Accommodation in Queensland.
A Parliamentary Inquiry will have the necessary resources, time, transparency and accountability to fully investigate the operations of the sector, hear from stakeholders and those with lived experience, and make recommendations to improve the sustainability and suitability of this type of accommodation in the future.
At the time of tabling the Queensland Government accepted the Public Advocate's recommendation for a Parliamentary Inquiry, which will be referred to the Community Support and Services Committee.
Adult safeguarding project
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Based on these consultations, the first report Adult Safeguarding in Queensland:Volume 1. Identifying the Gaps was released in July 2022.
The culmination of the project involved the development of 17 key reform recommendations. Adult Safeguarding in Queensland, Volume 2: Reform recommendations was released in December 2022.
Confidentiality provisions within the Queensland guardianship system
In August 2022 the Public Advocate released a report re-examining confidentiality in the guardianship system, looking at, in particular, the making of confidentiality orders by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal and Section 114A of the Guardianship and Administration Act 2000, which prohibits the publication of the identity of a person who is subject to a guardianship proceeding unless certain other conditions apply.
Review of the Queensland Acute Mental Health System
In August 2022, the Public Advocate completed a major review of Queensland's acute mental health system, in collaboration with consultant psychiatrist Professor Neeraj Gill. The report makes 21 carefully considered and feasible recommendations. The Public Advocate is looking forward to working with the various parties to whom these recommendations are addressed in seeing them realised.
Joint Issues Paper - Elder Abuse
In February 2022, the Public Advocate, in conjunction with the Queensland Law Society (QLS), released a joint issues paper describing the legal environment and issues associated with the violence, abuse and neglect of older persons. The paper was an update to the former joint publication, Elder Abuse: How well does the law cope in Queensland? which was released in June 2010.
The paper encompassed a broad scope of issues, including those related to; human rights; victims and perpetrators of elder abuse; civil and criminal law; law enforcement; domestic and family violence; the guardianship regime; system abuse in the aged care system; comparative legal approaches; and access to legal assistance for older persons.
Restrictive practices reform
In October 2021 the Public Advocate released a restrictive practices reform options paper, which proposes the use of a senior practitioner authorisation model across all settings in Queensland.
Preserving the financial futures of vulnerable Queenslanders: A review of Public Trustee fees, charges and practices
The systemic advocacy report, Preserving the financial futures of vulnerable Queenslanders: A review of Public Trustee fees, charges and practices , was tabled in Parliament on 10 March 2021.