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Appendix D-Report under the Commonwealth Disability Strategy

The Department is required to report on its performance against the framework of the Commonwealth Disability Strategy (CDS). Its progress in implementing the CDS in 2007-08 is summarised in this appendix.

The Australian Government's desired outcome for people with disabilities is full inclusion in all aspects of community life. Nearly one in five Australians has a disability, and the government is committed to widening their opportunities for independence, access and participation.

The CDS was introduced in 1994 to assist Australian Government agencies to meet their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, by providing a framework to assist in the development and delivery of policies, programs and services accessible to people with disabilities. The strategy was the product of consultation with people with disabilities, their supporters, representatives of the wider community and Australian Government organisations.

The CDS reporting framework is built around a number of key roles - policy adviser, regulator, purchaser and provider - performed by Australian Government agencies. From July 2007, agencies ceased to report on their employer role under the CDS in their annual reports; this role will be reported on through the Australian Public Service Commission's State of the Service agency survey.

More information about the CDS is available from the website of the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, at www.fahcsia.gov.au/disability/cds/default.htm

The following sections describe the Department's performance in 2007-08 in relation to the performance indicators set out in the CDS for the roles of policy adviser, regulator, purchaser and provider.

Policy adviser

Description Departmental perspective

Policy advisers initiate and develop policy for Australian Government programs and services.

In doing this, they consider the needs of different groups and sectors and the desired impacts and outcomes to be achieved for the community.

The Department undertook and published high-quality research and analysis and provided policy advice to ministers on a range of infrastructure, transport and regional issues, addressing disability issues where they applied.

Performance indicator Results for 2007-08 and goals and actions for 2008-09

New or revised policy/program proposals assess impact on the lives of people with disabilities prior to decision.

Results

The Department seeks to consult directly with clients, their representatives and other stakeholders when developing its policies and programs.

Consultation offers members of the community the opportunity to express their views in a safe and confidential manner and is an essential part of the process of developing legislation and government policy, programs and services.

The first five-year review of the efficiency and effectiveness of the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 progressed in 2007-08, with the Department engaging a consultant to commence the review. Consultation opportunities for people with disabilities, their representatives and other stakeholders included:

  • public hearings;
  • a call for submissions on the issues paper;
  • the release of a draft report for public comment; and
  • an invitation to make written comments on the draft report.

The consultant also maintained a dedicated, accessible website www.ddatransportreview.com.au.

Goals and actions

The Department expects to finalise the review of the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 and, if required, to implement actions arising from the government's response to the review.

People with disabilities are included in consultation about new or revised policy/program proposals.

Results

During 2007-08 any new policy proposals presented by the Department to the Minister were required to describe their likely impact on the whole community, including people with disabilities, where applicable. Consultation forums, through which the specific needs of people with disabilities could be considered, included:

  • the Accessible Public Transport National Advisory Committee (APTNAC); and
  • the Accessible Public Transport Jurisdictional Committee, established to coordinate government positions on issues raised by the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 and APTNAC.

The Department also consulted peak bodies directly when developing policies and programs and established or maintained contact with more than 200 different groups, as listed in Appendix F of this report.

Goals and actions

The Department will continue to consult widely with interested groups in formulating or revising policy and programs.

Public announcements of new, revised or proposed policy/program initiatives are available in accessible formats for people with disabilities in a timely manner.

Results

In 2007-08 the Department communicated new government policies and programs, including those that addressed disability issues, for example by:

  • providing information on how community groups could access government grants, through a dedicated website, GrantsLINK, at www.grantslink.gov.au. GrantsLINK promoted over 180 Australian Government grants programs and received more than nine million hits during 2007-08;
  • answering more than 18,000 enquiries from people seeking information about government services through more than 15,000 telephone calls made to the Australian Government Regional Information Service (AGRIS) toll-free call centre. The call centre operators assisted vision-impaired clients by reading the requested information aloud, or by providing the information on CD or cassette. Clients with hearing impairments were assisted through teletype services;
  • promptly posting announcements of new programs and policies on its websites, usually within 24 hours of release;
  • maintaining the Regional Entry Point website www.regionalaustralia.gov.au, which provides information about regional government programs and services; and
  • using plain English in its guidance materials.

Goals and actions

The Department will maintain and improve access to accurate and timely program information, through its websites and documentation.

Regulator

Description Departmental perspective

Regulators are usually involved with the enforcement of legislation or other government rules that influence the way people behave.

These are not limited to primary or delegated legislation.

They also include quasi-regulation such as codes of conduct, advisory instruments or notes which involve compliance.

Authority for independent decision making and administration may accompany this function to support the separation of certain powers from the Executive.

In 2007-08, the Department administered regulations and standards in accordance with more than 70 Commonwealth Acts, while working closely with other regulators, on matters concerning:

  • infrastructure investment, maintenance and development;
  • maritime and land transport, and aviation and airports;
  • transport safety and security;
  • regional services and development; and
  • local government.

The Department's regulatory responsibilities in relation to the administration of Australian territories and natural disaster relief were transferred to the Attorney-General's Department in December 2007.

Performance indicator Results for 2007-08 and goals and actions for 2008-09

Publicly available information on regulations and quasi-regulations is available in accessible formats for people with disabilities.

Publicly available regulatory compliance reporting is available in accessible formats for people with disabilities.

Results

Regulations administered by the Department are published by the Attorney-General's Department on the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments. Guidance material on the legislative process is published on the Department's website in accordance with departmental publishing standards.

The Department ensured that information on regulations and quasi-regulations, and regulatory compliance, was available and accessible, by:

  • using plain English in preparing guidance materials and regulation impact statements;
  • providing toll-free telephone numbers for enquiries in key areas such as motor vehicle imports;
  • maintaining links to legislation through the departmental website; and
  • including compliance reporting in the annual report, which is publicly available in hardcopy upon request and on the departmental website.

During 2007-08 the Department commenced making improvements to its main website that will enhance accessibility for a range of users, including clients with disabilities. The improvements will consist of cleaner code, utilising style sheets which lead to smaller page sizes with greater flexibility to adjust font sizes for clients with vision impairments. The improvements will also allow access by various assistive technologies commonly used by people with disabilities.

Goals and actions

The Department will continue to provide information in accessible formats and through a range of channels. The improvements to the departmental website will be extended to most of the Department's publicly accessible online content.

Purchaser

Description Departmental perspective

Purchasers act as agents of the policy adviser.

Having been advised of the outcomes sought by the policy adviser, purchasers determine the precise outputs to be purchased in terms of price, volume and quality and nominate the providers.

Service providers may be public, private or not-for-profit organisations.

In 2007-08 the Department administered grants, subsidies and other payments on behalf of the Australian Government totalling $5.2 billion. These payments mainly related to:

  • national road and rail infrastructure;
  • maritime and land transport;
  • regional services; and
  • services to local government, including a number of Indigenous councils.

In its day-to-day operations, the Department also purchased a range of goods and services costing $99.0 million in supplier expenses.

Performance indicator Results for 2007-08 and goals and actions for 2008-09

Publicly available information on agreed purchasing specifications is available in accessible formats for people with disabilities.

Results

The Department follows the Australian Government purchasing and procurement guidelines, which are published by the Department of Finance and Deregulation and made available online through www.finance.gov.au and www.tenders.gov.au.

Processes for purchasing goods or services with a direct impact on the lives of people with disabilities are developed in consultation with people with disabilities.

Results

The Department consulted with stakeholders, including, where applicable, people with disabilities, when managing tenders, contracts and grants.

Goals and actions

The Department will continue to adopt a consultative approach when purchasing goods and services with a direct impact on the lives of people with disabilities.

Purchasing specifications and contract requirements for the purchase of goods and services are consistent with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

Results

All departmental contracts issued in 2007-08 were based on templates which included standard clauses relating to people with disabilities.

All suppliers who received payments from the Department were required to comply with relevant state and Commonwealth laws, including the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, and the Sex Discrimination Act 1984.

Goals and actions

The Department will continue to ensure the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 are reflected in its purchasing specifications and contracts.

Publicly available performance reporting against the purchase contract specifications requested in accessible formats for people with disabilities is provided.

Results

Publicly available specifications, guidelines and performance reports related to the Department's support for infrastructure and regional development projects were available online, through the departmental website and/or the Regional Entry Point website, and through the Australian Government Regional Information Directory. A toll-free call centre (1800 026 222) also provided information and a referral service.

The Department's annual report, which includes information on purchasing and the use of contracts, was made available for download from the website in both PDF and HTML formats and provided in hardcopy on request.

Goals and actions

The Department will continue to make all publicly available specifications and performance information accessible online, and to provide an information and referral service through the toll-free call centre. Improvements to the Department's website will make online information more accessible by allowing the use of assistive technologies.

Complaints/grievance mechanisms, including access to external mechanisms, in place to address concerns raised about the providers' performance.

Results

The Department recognises that, regardless of whether services are delivered directly by the Department or through a third party, clients have the right to provide feedback about its services.

People wishing to make a complaint are advised by the Department's Client Service Charter to first explain their concern to staff in the area they have been dealing with, and ask them to address it. If the complaint is not resolved at that level, the client can contact the Governance Centre, where the matter will be investigated.

Clients are able to access external mechanisms, in particular the Commonwealth Ombudsman, if they are not satisfied with the Department's handling of a matter.

The report on the Department's 'provider' role includes more information on complaints resolution in 2007-08.

Goals and actions

The Department will continue to uphold its customer service charter and seek to resolve concerns about its performance quickly and responsively.

Provider

Description Departmental perspective

Providers deliver the services they have been contracted to provide under specified conditions.

During 2007-08 the Department delivered services and information to and in partnership with government, industry and the wider community. Several grants administered by the Department assisted people with disabilities to enter the workforce.

Performance indicator Results for 2007-08 and goals and actions for 2008-09

Providers have established mechanisms for quality improvement and assurance.

Results

The Department reviews its guidelines and procedure manuals regularly, and uses a client service charter to explain how feedback can be provided.

The Department gathers feedback regarding its activities through the following main mechanisms:

  • client surveys, where the service recipient could be identified, such as surveys involving households affected by airport noise amelioration programs;
  • formal evaluations of programs, usually conducted on a three-year to five-year cycle; and
  • reports submitted by the parties receiving funding, either on an agreed regular basis, or when projects passed key milestones.

Goals and actions

The Department will continue to seek feedback from its clients and to use that feedback, combined with the analysis of formal program evaluations, as a basis for continuous improvement.

Providers have an established service charter that specifies the roles of the provider and consumer and service standards which address accessibility for people with disabilities.

Results

During 2007-08 the Department's Client Service Charter was available in printed format and available on the website at www.infrastructure.gov.au/department/about/charter.aspx. The charter sets out the Department's service standards, including standards of accessibility, and encourages clients to provide feedback on how well the Department is meeting those standards.

Goals and actions

The Client Service Charter will be updated in 2008-09 to ensure it remains current and effective. As the Department's website is the most popular means of accessing the charter, the planned improvements to the website will help to ensure that all clients are able to access and understand the Department's commitment to service.

Complaints/grievance mechanism, including access to external mechanisms, in place to address issues and concerns raised about performance.

Results

Through the client service charter, clients are encouraged to provide feedback on the Department's performance, and are advised of the best process for making a complaint. Clients are encouraged to initially seek resolution of a complaint from staff in the area where the concern arose. If the complaint is not resolved at that level, clients have the option of submitting complaints and grievances to the Department's Governance Centre, including:

Clients are able to access external mechanisms such as the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, if they are not satisfied with the Department's handling of a matter.

One complaint was lodged and resolved with HREOC in 2007-08. The downward trend in complaints to the Commonwealth Ombudsman continued, with a 14 per cent decrease from 41 in 2006-07 to 35 in 2007-08.

Goals and actions

The Client Service Charter will be updated in 2008-09 to ensure it remains current and directs people with concerns about the work of the Department, or the level of service it has provided, to the most appropriate, responsive channels.

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