- The Community Visitors Program is an important safeguard in the Act.
- Community Visitors are appointed on the recommendation of the Public Advocate.
- Community Visitors protect and promote the health, safety, wellbeing and rights of people receiving mental health services at prescribed premises.
- The role of the Community Visitor is to visit certain mental health and wellbeing premises to monitor the services and facilities provided.
The Office of the Public Advocate’s Community Visitors Program provides an important quality and safety oversight function for people receiving residential mental health services at prescribed premises.
Role of community visitors
Community Visitors perform a critical quality and safety role, visiting prescribed premises and protecting the rights of people receiving services there.
Community Visitors inquire about the adequacy of services and facilities provided, and any non-compliance with the Act and its regulations.
Community Visitors inquire into:
- the adequacy of services and facilities provided at prescribed premises, including:
- the appropriateness and standard of facilities for the accommodation
- the physical wellbeing and welfare of persons receiving mental health and wellbeing services
- the adequacy of opportunities and facilities for recreation, occupation, education, training and recovery
- whether the mental health and wellbeing services provided at prescribed premises are provided in accordance with the objectives of the Act and the mental health and wellbeing principles and any contravention of the Act or regulations
- any other matter that a community visitor is satisfied is appropriate, having regard to the objectives of the Act and the mental health and wellbeing principles.
Community Visitors can also assist people receiving mental health and wellbeing services at the premises they visit to:
- resolve issues identified in the course of making an inquiry
- seek support from other relevant bodies or services
- make complaints to the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission.
Services Community Visitors may visit – prescribed premises
Community Visitors can visit ‘prescribed premises’. These are the premises of:
- a designated mental health service
- a mental health and wellbeing service provider in which residential services and 24 hour nursing care is provided for people who have mental illness; or
- Prevention Recovery and Care (PARC) services [Note – PARCs Other service types may be included in the regulations over time. Note – PARCS are prescribed to be ‘prescribed premises' in the Mental Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2023. The Act also allows for regulations to be made to include providers or classes of providers in which residential care is provided for people who have mental illness as ‘prescribed premises]
Visits by a Community Visitor to these prescribed premises may be in person or remote.
Requests to see a Community Visitor
A person receiving mental health and wellbeing services at prescribed premises (or someone on their behalf) may request to be visited by a community visitor.
The person in charge of the prescribed premises must notify the Office of the Public Advocate Advice Service that a visit from a Community Visitor is required within two business days of receiving a request.
Who are Community Visitors
Community Visitors are appointed on the recommendation of the Public Advocate.
They cannot be people who are employed by, or have any direct interest in any contract, with the Department of Health or a mental health and wellbeing service provider that is a prescribed premises.
What can a Community Visitor do?
Community Visitors may visit and inspect a prescribed premises at any time and do not need to give prior notice when they will be visiting.
At the prescribed premises, the Community Visitor may:
- enter and inspect any part of the prescribed premises, except a person’s bedroom unless the person consents
- talk to any person receiving mental health and wellbeing services who wishes, or has asked, to speak with the community visitor
- photograph any object, furnishing or part of a prescribed premises that they consider necessary as part of their role, except a person’s bedroom unless the person consents. Photographs must not identify any person
- inspect any document, other than a clinical record, that is required to be kept under the Act or the Regulations or that relates to a person receiving mental health and wellbeing services at the prescribed premises. This includes incident reports related to any person receiving mental health and wellbeing services at the prescribed premises
- inspect a person’s clinical record, if that person gives consent
Community Visitors must give proper consideration to the mental health and wellbeing principles in performing a function or exercising a power under the Act. They must ensure that decision making processes are transparent, systematic and appropriate and consider ways to promote good mental health and wellbeing.
Staff must provide reasonable assistance
Staff of prescribed premises must give a Community Visitor any reasonable assistance they need to carry out their role.
Community Visitors Code of Practice
The Community Visitors code of practice is made by the Chief Officer for Mental Health and Wellbeing under section 755 of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Act 2022. It is effective from 2 Ocotober 2023.
The department plans to further review this code of practice in consultation with stakeholders.
Key changes from Mental Health Act 2014
The Act retains the existing oversight role, powers and functions of community visitors.
Minor changes have been made to clarify that visits can be conducted remotely, to clarify that photographs may be taken (and the circumstances in which photographs must not be taken) and to clarify which documents community visitors can inspect (this includes an explicit statement that documents that may be inspected by Community Visitors includes an incident report that relates to a person receiving mental health and wellbeing services).
Reviewed 02 October 2023