COVID-19 information for service providers, workers and volunteers

The provisions under Part 6 of the Disability Services Act 2006 (the Act) pertaining to the use of restrictive practices are still applicable. There is no change to the requirements of providers, guardians and clients to seek authorisation for a restrictive practice.

It can be difficult to differentiate between the safety measures contained within recent public health directives and restrictive practices as defined in the Act.

The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission fact sheet (PDF) explains how actions in response to the advice of the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer are not considered to be a regulated restrictive practice in accordance with the NDIS Rules.

Amendments have been made to the Disability Services Act 2006 (the DSA) to ensure that if the locking of gates, doors and windows is required to assist an adult with an intellectual or cognitive disability to comply with public health directions, the same protections and safeguards are in place as when this practice is used due to a skills deficit.

The locking of gates, doors and windows is not considered to be a restrictive practice under the DSA. If the practice is used solely to prevent physical harm being caused to an adult with a skills deficit; however, Part 8, Division 2 of the Act provides clear direction to service providers about their responsibilities in this regard, and in what circumstances this practice can occur.

Existing reporting obligations and oversight mechanisms already in place will continue to apply where the locking of gates, doors and windows is used in response to a public health direction.

A policy to guide service providers when considering the locking of gates, doors or windows during the COVID-19 emergency has now been developed and published.

The legislated timeframes for Short-term Approvals (STAs) for the use of restrictive practices remain in place. The maximum duration for an STA is 6 months. This includes for STAs requested in relation to restrictive practices implemented in response to newly identified behaviours of harm as a consequence of the COVID-19 public health directions.

During this time it may be more difficult for service providers to secure the relevant assessments to meet STA conditions within the required time frames. In certain exceptional circumstances, a further STA can be granted which will last for a maximum of 6 months.

Where an extension under exceptional circumstances is requested, it is expected that the service provider will be able to provide evidence of all attempts to meet the required timeframes.

For more information contact the restrictive practices helpline on 1800 902 006 or send an email

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