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Friday 24 April 2020
It is important that all South Australians can take measures to protect themselves and others from exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
As you can no doubt appreciate, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has posed a number of challenges to those organisations that provide supported accommodation for individuals who are living with a cognitive impairment or mental incapacity.
Some people may have difficulty understanding the social distancing and other guidelines of the Chief Public Health Officer or the directives of the State Coordinator, leading to potential risks to both themselves and others.
We appreciate family members of people in supported accommodation may wish to see their loved ones isolated to minimise any risks of exposure to COVID-19. These are genuine safety concerns, and matters we have been working to address.
Since risk minimisation measures came into effect, a number of service providers and concerned family members have sought information and guidance on the way in which these measures can be applied to people who may not fully understand the Chief Public Health Officer’s guidelines or State Coordinator’s directives.
There is no one size fits all approach to this as every person will have different needs and capabilities, and any measures to keep them safe in these circumstances will need to be tailored specifically to that.
If there is a need to restrict a person’s movements due to the risk of exposure to COVID-19, it must be lawful and it must reflect their circumstances.
Recognising the legislative challenge this may pose, the South Australian Government has passed measures to help both accommodation providers and individual guardians enact measures that keep both individuals and the broader community protected from any potential spread of COVID-19.
These measures allow both supported accommodation providers and individual guardians to seek temporary approval to restrict the movements of an individual if they are at risk of exposure to COVID-19. An authorisation must be by an appointed Authorising Officer or by the guardian of the person if one is appointed. After 28 days, an extension may be sought from the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT).
The Attorney-General has appointed Richard Bruggemann as Authorising Officer. Mr Bruggemann has extensive experience in the disability sector, having previously undertaken the roles of Chief Executive Officer of the Intellectual Disability Services Council and Senior Practitioner (Disability Services) in the Department of Communities and Social Inclusion.
If a supported accommodation provider has serious concerns for a resident’s safety related to COVID-19 they can detain a person for no longer than 48 hours, within which an application must be made to the guardian or Authorising Officer to obtain approval to detain the protected person for up to 28 days.
These applications should not be made lightly, and must involve the least restrictive measures possible. Consideration will be given to the protected person’s circumstances, as well as any alternative measures aimed at ensuring their health and wellbeing.
Applications considered by either a guardian or the Authorising Officer will endeavour to reach the least restrictive approach through means that do not unduly restrict an individual’s movements, while also preventing those activities that may pose a risk to both the individual and the broader community of COVID-19.
There is a right of review. A person aggrieved by a decision to detain a protected person can apply to the Authorising Officer. A person aggrieved by a decision of the Authorising Officer can apply to SACAT for review.
The Principal Community Visitor will also be able to conduct a visit using videoconferencing and other means to people who have the special orders, to ensure measures imposed in any orders are being applied appropriately.
Should you have any queries about the application process, or face a complaint about how those orders are being applied please contact AuthorisingOfficer@sa.gov.au.
More information: Restrictions on at-risk care facility residentsPage last updated : 02 May 2020