Thursday, November 23, 2017
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Advocacy for Inclusion provides independent individual, self and systemic advocacy for people with disabilities.

Advocacy for Inclusion is a Disabled Peoples Organisation which means our board, members and staff are a majority of people with disabilities.

We represent Canberra’s most marginalised and isolated people with disabilities, those with cognitive disabilities and/or significant communication barriers.

We work within a human rights framework and acknowledge the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Advocacy for Inclusion is signed onto the ACT Human Rights Act.

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Parenting

Commitments sought

 

Establish a complementary disability strategy to the Out of Home Care Strategy to address the specific needs of people with disabilities in their parenting roles. The strategy should include the following initiatives:

  1. An independent inquiry into removal of children from parents with disabilities in order to identify the reasons for removal and potential for restoration where children have been prematurely or inappropriately removed. i.e. where the parent/s have not had access to adequate and targeted support to parent their child well;
  2. Introduce routine data collection about child and parent disability status;
  3. Build capacity for disability appropriate responses among community services contracted to provide in-home supports to “high risk families” to ensure that these services are equipped and sensitive to respond to the needs of parents with disabilities;
  4. A plan for coordination between NDIS, CPS and support providers to ensure gaps are filled and the complex needs of families headed by parents with disabilities are addressed including specific specialist case management services.

Additionally, a commitment is sought for robust annual monitoring, by the ACT Legislative Assembly through its committee system, of the newly introduced permanent placement mechanism to ascertain:

1.   How many children of parents with disabilities are placed in permanent placement arrangements using the new mechanism?

2.   What supports were offered to parents with disabilities prior to their child/ren being removed into a permanent placement arrangement by Care & Protection Services?

3.   What alternatives to adoption were investigated prior to its approval as a last resort?

 

What is currently being done?

Disability led responses

-       None. There are currently no programs funded by the ACT government controlled by and for people with disabilities to support the parenting rights of people with disabilities or to assist them with child protection matters.

Disability specialist responses

-       None. There is a major shortfall in the provision of in home parenting supports which are responsive to the specialist needs of parents with disabilities.

Mainstream responses

-       The new Out of Home Care Strategy acknowledges parents with disabilities as a target group but has not developed any further targeted response to support them. Only generic services exist.

  

Background

Advocacy for Inclusion is deeply concerned about some of the changes to child protection legislation in January 2016 as part of the new Out of Home Care Strategy. The changes will result in shorter temporary placement orders for infants aged younger than 2 years – reduced from two years to one year – and speedier permanent removal of infants from their parents. We seek a commitment to establish a coordinated and targeted strategy to meet the needs of families headed by parents with disabilities, to stop children being removed as a result of preventable child protection concerns.

Article 23 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities outlines that people with disabilities have the right to access the support they need to parent. Advocacy for Inclusion welcomes a number of initiatives recently introduced with the Out of Home Care Strategy, especially the service elements under the Strengthening High Risk Families Domain. The ACT Government must target policies and resources at supporting people with disabilities to fulfil their parenting responsibilities, including via a complementary disability strategy.

A lack of recognition of people with disabilities as parents in the new Strategy, and the particular barriers they face, is resulting in continued exclusion of people with disabilities as valued family participants. Despite the rhetoric delivered with this new Strategy, since its introduction Advocacy for Inclusion has already worked on cases where a new born child has been removed from a mother’s care, without first implementing and trialling parenting supports; the mother hadn’t left the hospital and was afforded no opportunity to bond with her child, or to demonstrate her parenting capacity. Alarmingly, discussions by Care and Protection Services workers were had about applying for 18 year orders despite this lack of support provision. In other cases where child protection services have encouraged the implementation of parenting support there is a lack of coordination between the NDIS and parenting support services, and a gap in provision for disability sensitive parenting support.

There is also a complete lack of specialist case management which stretches across both disability services and child protection domains, despite this being a considerable area of need.

As Advocacy for Inclusion has repeatedly cautioned, the Strategy does not incorporate a disability lens, which means that it does not incorporate an understanding of how to best respond to the particular needs of parents with disabilities. For example, parents with disabilities may require more intensive parenting supports than parents without disabilities, especially in the first few months of the child’s life. Issues such as these are not yet consistently understood or acknowledged by the child protection system. Rather the new strategy assumes that a generic approach will suffice.

Australian and international studies indicate that parents with cognitive impairment in particular (including intellectual and psychosocial disabilities) are subject to high rates of child protection interventions and child removal, with issues such as prejudice, discriminatory attitudes and a chronic lack of appropriate parenting supports being contributing factors. A recent study of 126 parents involved in the ACT child protection system found that 37 per cent of parents had one or more disability[1]. Due to a lack of collection of demographic data by the child protection system in the ACT and nationally, this high prevalence of parents with disabilities has been invisible. Consequently, we do not know the full picture in the ACT. Given the lack of targeted action we are concerned that the Government does not appreciate the potential extent of the problem and, therefore, has no real ability to respond appropriately to it.


[1] Hamilton, S. & Braithwaite, V. (2014). Complex lives, complex needs, complex service systems. Australian National University.  

Latest Policy Work

 

Submission to ACT Budget Consultation 2018-17: Recognising the purpose of advocacy in the justice process

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Response to the ACT Law Reform Advisory Council Canberra – Becoming a Restorative City Issues Paper

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Response to Australian Human Rights Commission Response to Australian Human Rights Commission OPCAT in Australia Consultation Paper, July 2017

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Submission to the Draft General Comment No. 5 (2017) Article 19: Living independently and being included in the community

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