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Legislative frameworks

Legislative frameworks relevant to community workers include those that:

regulate the registration or accreditation of community workers
regulate the conduct and behaviour of community workers
deal with civil or criminal liability of community workers
regulate dealings between community workers and clients.

Some generally relevant legislation sets broad standards for professionals. These statutes tend to apply to all professionals broadly and do not attempt to limit the definition of professionals in anyway. These statutes do however provide some exemptions and exclusions for community workers.

Examples include the Associations Incorporation Act (which sets out a range of important considerations for organisations and their members, as opposed to their employees or staff), the Community Services Act and the Civil Liability Act which apply to a range of community workers including social workers, community welfare workers and others.

In a number of areas of community work specific legislation needs to be considered. The areas include:

community health
child care and protection
disability services
family relationships.

For example, the Nursing Act 1992 and the Psychologists Registration Act 2001 are examples of legislation that prescribes a set of standards for particular areas of work or perhaps more accurately for particular community workers. Other relevant practitioners covered by similar legislation include the Physiotherapists Registration Act 2001 and the Occupational Therapists Registration Act 2001.

Key questions
Legislative schemes
Community Services Act
Disability services
Child care services
Family relationships
Education and Skills Training
What is a ‘registered’ family dispute resolution provider?
Counselling (includes family therapy)
Children’s contact services
Parenting Orders Program

Key questionsBack to top

When reviewing legislative framework for your organisation (and accordingly, its community workers) questions that should be asked include:

are there any mandatory legislative standards?
are there any optional legislative standards?
does internal policy and procedure reflect those standards?
how is policy and procedure reviewed to ensure compliance with standards?
who is responsible to ensuring compliance with standards?
are there any consequences for non compliance?

Legislation is the written law created by the Parliament, implemented by the Executive Government and enforced by the Judiciary. Legislation changes regularly and in complex ways. Keeping abreast of legislative change is important, particularly specific legislation that affects community workers or their clients.

It is critical that community workers and community organisations stay current and up to date with a range of information including:

legal information that affects their workers
legal information that affects their clients
ethical and conduct information that affects their workers
ethical and conduct information that affects their clients
continuing professional issues and standards

It is very difficult to keep up to date with changes to the law but there are some practical ways this can be achieved including continuing professional development and subscription to journals among others.

Questions that need to be asked include:

do we keep up to date?
what policies and procedures are in place to ensure currency of knowledge?
are those policies monitored?
are there any standards that need to be met?

Legislative schemesBack to top

Legislative schemes may link a number of Acts under a broad umbrella. For example, the Psychologists Registration Act 2001 (Qld) is a part of a legislative scheme consisting of the Health Practitioner Registration Acts, the Health Practitioner Registration Boards (Administration) Act 1999 and the Health Practitioners (Professional Standards) Act 1999. The Psychologists Registration Act 2001 is one of many registration Acts that provide registration, regulation and disciplinary regimes for practitioners, including community workers who fall within jurisdiction.

Importantly, the legislative regime only applies to those who are registered under the relevant scheme.

Community Services ActBack to top

The Queensland Parliament passed the Community Services Act 2007 on 23 August 2007.
The Act sets out new laws about services funded by the Department of Communities. These laws update and improve ways for the community services sector and government to work together to strengthen services for Queenslanders.

The Act includes sections on:

eligibility for departmental funding and other assistance
the kind of assistance available and the processes for providing assistance
the establishment of Standards for Community Services
measures for dealing with serious concerns about service delivery
review and appeal rights regarding departmental decisions.

Once implemented, the Community Services Act 2007 will be used as the basis for giving funding and other assistance to service providers, instead of the Family Services Act 1987.

The standards for service provision might include:

protecting users and others from harm
hours of operation and contact arrangements
dealing with complaints
financial management and accountability
roles and responsibilities of executive officers and employees
executive officers’ knowledge of legislation and governing documents
volunteers’ knowledge of, and supervision in performing tasks performed for provider
conflicts of interest.

Source: Department of Communities

Disability servicesBack to top

Some legislative schemes such as the Disability Services Act create aspirational (not enforceable) targets for services to persons with disability. The Act is complemented by Disability Service Standards. These standards are assessed against service standard indicators. It is important to note that Disability Services Acts exist at state and federal level but in both cases they set aspirational standards and provide unenforceable rights. The application of disability service legislation and standards depends on:

who is caught
what are the standards
how do they ineract with other standards

Disability service standards include:

Service access: Each person with a disability seeking a service has access to the service on the basis of relative need and within available resources
Individual needs: Individual needs and personal goals are met in the least restrictive way possible and within available resources
Decision-making and choice: Participation (as fully as possible) in decision-making, choice of activities and events in daily life in relation to the services received
Privacy, dignity and confidentiality: Recognition of the right to privacy, dignity and confidentiality in all aspects of life
Participation and integration: Support and encouragement to participate and be included in the life of the community
Valued status: Provision of opportunities to develop skills to participate in and achieve valued roles within the community
Complaints and disputes: A proactive approach to complaints and disputes management that safeguards service users/supports from retributive action when raising complaints
Service management: Effective corporate governance through sound and visible management systems and practice
Protection of legal and human rights and freedom from abuse and neglect: Upholding the legal and human rights of each person with a disability and taking action to prevent and/or respond to allegations of abuse and neglect
Staff recruitment, employment and development: Recruitment, selection and development of paid and unpaid staff that ensures they have the relevant values, skills, knowledge and competencies to support service delivery to service users

Other relevant legislation in the area of disability services includes:

Anti-Discrimination Act 1991
Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth)
Disability Services Act 1986 (Cth)
Education (General Provisions) Act 1989
Equal Opportunity in Public Employment Act 1992
Guardianship and Administration Act 2000
Mental Health Act 1974
Mental Health Regulation 1985
Powers of Attorney Act 1998

Child care servicesBack to top

The State Government Department of Communities is responsible for child care in Queensland and monitors the relevant child care legislation including the Child Care Act 2002 and Child Care Regulation 2003. Federal legislation (the Child Care Act 1972) also exists to provide for the administration of child care payments such as child care benefit and child care rebate.

Under these statutes there is a cohort of policies, guidelines, standards and plans that provide guidance on how services are to be provided.

Family relationshipsBack to top

Many community organisations work within the family law framework:

Family Relationship Centres (FRCs)
Relationship counselling services
Child contact services
General counselling and support services
Women’s services
Domestic and family violence services
Emergency accommodation.

In each of these cases legislative frameworks that are relevant include:

Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)
Child Support Laws (Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth)
Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988 (Cth)
Social Security Laws (Social Security Act 1991 and Social Security (Administration) Act 1991 (Cth)
Family Assistance Laws (Cth)
Domestic Violence (Family Protection) Act 1989 (Qld)

There are some areas where community workers actions and conduct will be regulated by the law in this area of community work. Examples include:

Provision of reports for family law or related proceedings in court
Provision of counselling services
Provision of primary or alternative dispute resolution services

Education and Skills TrainingBack to top

These services assist individuals, couples and families to develop skills that foster positive relationships with their partner, children and other family members.

Some of the assistance offered includes promoting positive parenting, developing communication and problem solving skills for individuals and couples throughout the lifecycle, providing relationship education in schools as well as courses for pre-marriage and other key transition points such as becoming a parent.

What is a ‘registered’ family dispute resolution provider?Back to top

A registered family dispute resolution provider is an individual or organisation who has met the required standards of training, experience and suitability for inclusion on the Family Dispute Resolution Register. Registered family dispute resolution providers can conduct family dispute resolution and, if needed, issue a certificate for you to take to court to confirm that an attempt at family dispute resolution was made.

Registered family dispute resolution providers may be community, government-funded and private sector organisations and private practitioners. People can choose the registered family dispute resolution provider who they think will best meet their needs.

Counselling (includes family therapy)Back to top

Professional counsellors assist individuals, couples and families, including separating families, to resolve relationship issues that arise at various stages of their relationships.

Children’s contact servicesBack to top

These services assist the children of separated parents to have contact with and establish and maintain a relationship with their other parent and family members.

The services provide a safe, reliable and neutral place to assist parents with the changeover of children. They also provide supervised contact to assist separated parents to manage contact arrangements, especially where there are concerns about safety.

Parenting Orders ProgramBack to top

Services under the Parenting Orders Program (previously known as the Contact Orders Program) provide assists to separating families in high conflict with parenting arrangements. The Parenting Orders Program uses a variety of child-focused and child inclusive interventions to respond more effectively and flexibly to families' needs and work where possible with all members of the family. It involves a case worker intensively managing parents and getting them to understand the effect their conflict is having on their children.

Family members, including children, can receive a range of services such as counselling, family dispute resolution and group work education as part of this program. High conflict families are referred to these services, giving separated parents an alternative to taking their disputes to court.

Source: Family Relationships Online