What disability providers need to know about the Royal Commission

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Posted 1 month ago by Rebecca St Clair

Understanding the Royal commission process can help with knowing what to expect and helps with preparing for the Royal Commission (Source: Shutterstock)
Understanding the Royal commission process can help with knowing what to expect and helps with preparing for the Royal Commission (Source: Shutterstock)

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability continues in 2020 with more hearings, submissions, community forums and an interim report expected to be released by 30 October 2020. 

For service providers, the Royal Commission can be a complicated process, impacting not only the business itself but the day to day running of the organisation, staff and clients. Understanding the Royal commission process can help with knowing what to expect and helps with preparing for the Royal Commission.

What can I do to prepare for the Royal Commission?

How you prepare for the Royal Commission will depend on your organisation's internal processes and if you are asked to provide information to the Royal Commission.

When preparing for the Commission, you may want to consider taking some of the following actions, developed by the National Disability Service to help you be prepared. 

Contact person

  • Establish a contact person or team to deal with Royal Commission requests and set up communication channels with leaders in your organisation. This ensures information is communicated to the right people. 

  • Establish clear guidance about the roles and responsibilities of spokespeople in your organisation and how staff can refer questions they might receive from the media.

Prepare your Board

  • Prepare a briefing paper for your Board to ensure they know what is happening. If prepared with legal advice, this paper may be subject to legal professional privilege

  • Review your insurances to see whether the costs of responding to the Royal Commission, or matters related to the Commission, are covered.

Prepare documentation

  • Ensure that relevant documents and information is not destroyed. Destruction of potentially relevant documents may be an offence.

  • Identify documents that may be relevant to the Terms of Reference. This may include records about complaints and incident reporting, as well as other additional information.

  • Set up an efficient search and collection systems for documents, so if they are required, they can be found easily. Requests for information have a short time frame for the materials to be handed over. 

Risk assessment 

  • You may wish to identify any governance, risk and conduct issues that may arise from the Royal Commission’s Terms of Reference and conduct an initial risk assessment.

Prepare your communications

  • Prepare a communications plan. The plan should consider who you may be communicating with and how communications will be made. It should consider all of the organisation’s stakeholders, the media and the community, in the context of the Royal Commission.

  • Keep in mind that emails (both internal and external) regarding the Royal Commission may be read by the Commission and made public. 

  • Be aware of any privacy obligations when sharing information.

 During the Royal Commission

Whilst the Royal Commission is being held, media reports and public perception can impact staff and clients in your organisation. 

Providers, organisations and staff

  • You can make the process of the Royal commission less confusing for staff by keeping all staff informed about proceedings and help them understand news relating to the Royal Commission.

  • As an organisation, consider how you will support staff members. This could be through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or other internal/external programs. 

  • Ensure you have a clear media policy setting out how media enquiries should be handled, and who has the authority to speak to media.

  • Have clear guidelines on who can respond on behalf of your organisation and how staff should handle unwanted comments on social media.

  • Staff may want to contribute to the Royal Commission you are not able to stop them as it is an offence. It would be best if you encouraged them to use any legal and advocacy services available to them. 

Clients and their families 

  • Regularly update clients and their families about the Royal Commission proceedings. 

  • Help families and clients understand the Royal commission and any implications using plain English.

  • Provide clients and families with information about how they can contribute to the Royal Commission and the supports available for them to do so.

Request to provide information to the Royal Commission

The Royal Commission can call and cross-examine witnesses, obtain evidence, and obtain rights of entry. If they need something from someone, they will request it.

Providing documents

As a part of the Disability Royal Commission, you may need to provide information and documentation. 

Royal Commissions such as the one into Aged Care have involved sector-wide requests for voluntary submission of data and information from providers. 

If the information is not supplied voluntarily to the Commission then they can compel the submission of information. 

Witnesses

You may be required to appear before the Royal Commission as a witness for interviews in private sessions. It cannot compel people to do this. 

Potential witnesses may need to prepare a statement which details the evidence they are supplying. 

As a witness, you may work with your own or your organisation’s legal team to prepare your statement. 

If the Royal Commission requires witnesses to appear at a hearing, it will issue summonses to appear. 

When appearing before the Royal Commission, the witnesses statement is usually submitted. Then the witness is examined by Counsel Assisting. Once Counsel Assisting examined you you will then cross-examined by other parties authorised by the Royal Commission to do so. 

Royal Commission Assistance 

Counselling 

Free counselling support from Blue Knot Foundation is available for people with disability, their families and carers, and anyone affected by the Disability Royal Commission.

To receive support call the National Counselling and Referral Service on 1800 421 468 or (02) 6146 1468. 

The service is open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 6 pm or Saturday to Sunday 9 am to 5 pm AEDT.

DRC Legal Service

A free legal advisory service from National Legal Aid and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services can help you with legal advice.

To receive legal information, assistance and referrals, free call 1800 771 800 between 9.15 am and 5.15 pm AEDT, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays).

For more information about support available click here or read our guide to the Royal Commission process, click here.

Was this information helpful? Leave a comment below. 

Information in this article was supplied by National Disability Service (NDS). 

This article is general information only. It does not take the place of formal legal advice. If you need help, seek independent legal support.

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