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During the COVID-19 pandemic there is a risk that some persons will not have the capacity to:
- understand or comply with Guidance and Directions of the Chief Public Health Officer and Directions of the State Coordinator in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic; or
- otherwise take appropriate steps to protect themselves and the community from exposure to COVID-19.
As a consequence, supported accommodation providers including aged care, mental health and disability service providers may need to restrict the movement of a resident to ensure they are not exposed to COVID-19 or spread the virus in the broader community.
The guidance and directions of the Chief Public Health Officer and directions of the State Coordinator do not authorise service providers to use restrictive practises to enforce compliance with the guidance or directions.
You may recall that the Government introduced a temporary scheme under the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act 2020, to allow accommodation service providers to lawfully and urgently detain persons who are at risk of exposure to COVID-19 and/or non-compliant with public health guidance, for a short period. A further period of detention up to 28 days could be approved on application to the person’s guardian, or, if no guardian was appointed, by an Authorising Officer or the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT).
This temporary scheme ended on 31 May 2021.
From 1 June 2021, if and when detention is required to protect an individual from exposure to COVID-19, it will need to be authorised by the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT) making special powers orders under section 32(1)(b) of the Guardianship and Administration Act 1993.
If you require further information about the procedure for an application to SACAT please visit www.sacat.sa.gov.au.
Service providers should continue to take proper measures to ensure individuals with a cognitive impairment or mental incapacity are well-supported through day to day education and behaviour support plans to adhere to any social distancing measures to ensure both they and the community remain protected.
The imminent rollout of the COVID-19 vaccinations in South Australia has seen an increase in consent requests for OPA clients. The OPA is aware that all accommodation sites across South Australia are preparing for the rollout and service providers are seeking consent from the OPA where a resident is under the guardianship of the Public Advocate.
The OPA is finalising its consent process as a matter of priority.
For service providers and clients who are seeking feedback regarding vaccination consent – the OPA will be in contact as soon as possible and we thank your for your patience during this busy time.
The Office of the Public Advocate Annual Report has been tabled in Parliament on 11 November 2020. To read the latest report click here.
Happy Planning Ahead Week 2020!
Planning Ahead Week looks a little different this year, but we wanted to send our greetings out to everyone involved in this important work!
We are also taking this opportunity to highlight our new range of simplified fact sheets, which will help answer your questions about OPA and all of the Public Advocate's functions, and which will be available very soon.
Please enjoy our video greeting, and contact us on 8342 8200 for more information about how you can make Advance Care decisions, and have your rights and wishes upheld.
Legislative changes to minimise the spread of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic and the introduction of social distancing measures has meant significant changes to the way people interact.The Office of the Public Advocate has received a number of calls seeking advice on how these measures may impact a protected person’s movements.Everyone’s circumstances will be different and there is no one size fits all approach that can be taken in the current environment.Legislative change has been needed to help ensure supported accommodation facilities and guardians can take the necessary steps to keep protected persons safe from COVID-19.
What are the changes?
The Government has introduced the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act 2020 to allow for aged care, mental health and disability service providers to apply for temporary approval to restrict the movement of a protected person.Applications should be made where there is concern that a protected person does not have the capacity to adhere to public health measures (such as social distancing) that are designed to minimise the risk of transmitting COVID-19.These measures will help keep both the community and the protected person safe from the potential spread of COVID-19.Applications can be made to the guardian or, where there is no guardian, to the newly-created Authorising Officer. Leading disability advocate Professor Richard Bruggemann has been appointed to this position, and will endeavour to implement measures that do not unduly restrict a protected person’s movements, but still ensure appropriate public health measures are adhered to.
What do the orders do?
A supported accommodation facility can apply to the Authorising Officer or the person’s Guardian for authorisation to detain a protected person that can last up to 28 days.Authorisation will allow persons to take such steps as may be reasonably necessary to detain a protected person.The goal will be to implement the least restrictive approach that balances the protected person’s freedom with both the person and the broader community’s right to be protected from the possible spread of COVID-19.
Factors that will be considered
When authorisation is sought, the Public Advocate or the Authorising Officer will consider all relevant background information.This would include:
- A protected person’s history
- How their capacity may impact on their interactions with others in public
- The health risk this might pose to the protected person or other people
- Any other mitigation measures providers have introduced to try and address any concerns.
Extensions to orders
Where an order extending beyond the initial 28 days is sought, an application must be made to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT).
We appreciate there is a delicate balance between restricting an individual’s movements and allowing activities that may pose a risk to both the individual and the broader community. We will work to reach solutions that involve the least restrictive approach, while ensuring all appropriate public health measures are met. More information is available at https://covid-19.sa.gov.au/restrictions-and-responsibilities/at-risk-facility-residents
The Office of the Public Advocate (OPA) is carefully monitoring the official public health advice regarding COVID-19 and is taking steps to ensure the wellbeing of clients and staff.
The OPA is planning a phased approach to implementing alternative operating arrangements to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its clients and staff. As a result, interim measures are being introduced to prevent and minimise the spread of COVID-19.
- From Wednesday 18 March 2020 we will be trialling delivery of our services via telephone and email.
- All in person visits and non-essential meetings are suspended until further notice. The OPA is investigating alternative methods for providing those services.
The contact details for my office remain the same, however your call may initially be diverted to a voice mail. Telephone calls and emails will be monitored throughout the day and will be actioned as soon as possible. Urgent matters will be given priority.
You will understand that this is a rapidly developing situation and measures to protect public health are changing from day to day.
We will aim to keep all parties informed of any service changes via notices on our public website.
The OPA is taking these measures to support the public effort to prioritise the health, safety and welfare of the community of South Australia.
If you have any concerns please do not hesitate to contact through our website address above or telephone 8342 3200 or country callers 1800 066 969 (Country SA).
The annual report for 2018-2019 has been tabled. To view the report please click here.
Office of the Public Advocate has released three videos about the role of the office, guardianship and advcance care directives. Check out the three videos here:
The State Government has announced its intention to merge the Office of the Public Advocate and the Public Trustee, under reforms aimed at improving services to vulnerable South Australians. The Public Trustee (publictrustee.sa.gov.au) acts as a financial administrator for those South Australians who cannot manage their own affairs, preparing Wills and managing Enduring Powers of Attorney for eligible customers and acting as executor for deceased estates. These reforms will require legislative change and, in the short term at least, it will continue to be business as usual. More information on the proposed reforms can be found here. Click Here
The annual report for 2017-2018 has been tabled. To view the report please click here.