Tuesday, September 19, 2017
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Advocacy for Inclusion Blog

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AUG
28

Updates to OPCAT in the ACT

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There have been several announcements this week around the ratification and changes in the ACT regarding the OPCAT (Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture). Let’s unpack them:

  1. The ACT Government has introduced the Monitoring of Places of Detention (Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture) Bill 2017 into the ACT Legislative Assembly last week. Whilst we welcome the introduction of the bills, we are reluctant to hand out kudos just yet.

The definition of ‘places of detention’ within our new bill is fairly broad:

“place of detention, means any place that the subcommittee must be allowed to visit under the Optional Protocol, article 4, that is subject to the jurisdiction and control of the Territory. Note Under the Optional Protocol, art 4, the Territory must allow visits to any place under its jurisdiction and control and in which people are or may be involuntarily deprived of their liberty”.

The bill introduced this week covers actions to enable the UN Sub-committee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT) to visit places of detention. Fabulous – however the downside to this is that a group of UN ‘experts’ will only visit once or twice in a period of two to five years or more. This is a huge issue if the ACT wants to be serious about the role of monitoring places of detention.

Recognising that it is still early days for OPCAT, it is still a disappointment to see the lack coverage in the bill on neither the domestic monitoring responsibilities overall of inspectors nor the National Preventative Mechanism (NPM) that is to be coordinated by the Commonwealth Ombudsman to ensure that places of detention are routinely inspected.

It is absolutely vital that the ACT Government and the shared responsibility of the NPM to ensure that places of detention are routinely inspected on a regular basis. In line with our submission, we also expect that places of detention (including institutional living spaces) to be randomly ‘dropped in on’ with limited to zero warning to ensure practices are upheld to the highest standard and individual human rights are maintained at all times.

  1. Featured a Canberra Times article this week, it is evident that people with disabilities may have missed out, particularly the areas of institutional living.

The Federal Government will ratify the protocols of OPCAT by the end of the year and the rest of Australia, including the ACT, will be required to ensure detention facilities will meet the new standards after ratification. We question how much will change and how fast with the introduction of our new bill.

We welcome the focus on prisons as detention centres as well as aged care and mental health, but again, disability may have been missed out or has been shoved to the bottom of the pile when it comes to people with disability living in institutional living without choice or control. It is urged that the Government place the issue of restrictive practices to the top of the pile and push towards the elimination of restrictive practices in all places of detention in the ACT.

At present, the ACT largely continues to lose points on accountability measures. Because restrictive practices have serious consequences and are a form of violence, these practices must be accounted for and strictly monitored, yet they are not. This is what OPCAT is designed to prevent. Not only detention centres but also support services that work with people with disabilities in congregated and institutional living must be drastically improved so that people with disabilities are better supported to communicate and have their needs met in order to prevent the use of restrictive practices in the first place.

  1. The ACT Government is preparing to create an Inspector of Prisons within the ACT Ombudsman office in response to the recommendations of the Moss Review last year. Fantastic, only we will be watching to find out what exactly this means in terms of mechanisms of oversight and its role. What will the Inspector actually do?

We welcome the enthusiasm to create an Inspector of Prisons as this is needed. We continuously maintain that people with disabilities are overrepresented in the ACT criminal justice system, draining our economic resources when self-advocacy is the key to change as many of people that move through Advocacy for Inclusion’s space does not need to be in the prison system at all. Should the new and upcoming Inspector have the power to implement change in our prison system, they will be monitoring a rather small cohort of a prisoner population as it will decline when people with disabilities are focused upon and removed from the criminal justice system with reasonable support.

Wishful thinking it may be from a policy perspective but the argument is maintained: address the high levels of marginalisation of people with disabilities in ACT (within the housing, education, employment, exclusion, discrimination, human rights, etc.) and we will be on a path of restorative recovery. 

Check out our submission to the OPCAT here in Word or PDF format: Response to AHRC on OPCAT in Australia Consultation Paper, July 2017

Follow our Twitter: @Adv4I_Policy

 

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JUL
19

Advocacy for Inclusion responds to OPCAT ratification

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The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) is due to be ratified by the Federal Government in December 2017.

As part of the Australian Government’s commitment to working closely with states and territories, Advocacy for Inclusion has been part of the consultation process in the ACT and has participated in a roundtable discussion, followed by a teleconference. We have now responded in turn to the Australian Human Rights Commission request for responses to the OPCAT consultation paper.  

What is OPCAT?

 

OPCAT is an international human rights treaty that aims to prevent ill-treatment in places of detention through the creation of a preventive-based inspection mechanism. Australia has signed OPAT in May 2009 and is yet to be legislated. In Australia’s case, and the ACT as a Territory, the OPCAT ratification will ensure places of detention where people are deprived of their liberty and basic human rights are detained and prevented from speaking out.

The ratification of OPCAT is to introduce a greater level of transparency and accountability for the treatment of people who are kept in detention facilities and also confined without choice or control in their circumstances. The Australian Government has committed to putting in place the following:

  1. The National Preventative Mechanism (NPM) – this area will be coordinated by the Commonwealth Ombudsman, in partnership with the Australian Human Rights Commission to ensure places of detention are inspected.

It is yet to be decided by the Australian Government if the model of the NPM will be a sole national body or only the Commonwealth Ombudsman through states and territories. How the final product is going to look and operate will be decided in due course of time.

  1. The UN Sub-committee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT) – the UN body of independent ‘experts’ responsible for conducting visits to places of detention in the states and territories and provide guidelines for the NPMs to assist in the performance of their duties.

In short, Advocacy for Inclusion supports the ratification of the OPCAT by Australia and welcomes the focus of the present consultation by the Australian Human Rights Commission. In particular, the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) is seen as a useful oversight mechanism to protect the human rights of people with disabilities in indefinite detention, through its mandate to inspect places of detention and make recommendations to relevant authorities against restrictive practices.

Our Submission

 

In our submission, we are argued for the need for transparency and accountability in the monitoring of restrictive practices used against people with disabilities, particularly in institutional settings. It is part of our daily work, and we see the issue consistently. Our organisation’s experience tells us that restrictive practices are widely hidden from the broader community. The current system lacks accountability measures. Because restrictive practices have serious consequences and are a form of violence, these practices must be accounted for and strictly monitored, yet they are not. Support systems and services must be drastically improved so that people with disabilities are better supported to communicate and have their needs met in order to prevent the use of restrictive practices in the first place.

We consistently argue that restrictive practices are fundamentally violations of human rights. Such practices cause physical and psychological pain and distress, deprivation of liberty, and remove a person from their property. These practices can have significant hostile impacts on the person’s mental and physical health and wellbeing. It also denies a person basic respect for their inherent dignity as human beings. Restrictive practices must be eliminated in order to fulfil the human rights and wellbeing of people with disabilities.

Restrictive practices “are the deliberate or unconscious use of coercive power to restrain or limit an individual’s freedom of action or movement. There are five main forms of restrictive interventions: chemical, environmental, mechanical, and physical restraint, and seclusion.” Restrictive practices are fundamentally violations of human rights. They can cause physical and psychological discomfort or pain, deprivation of liberty, alter thought processes and deprive a person of their property. These practices can have significant adverse impacts on the person’s mental and physical health and wellbeing and this is evident in our daily work and expertise of knowledge.

In spaces where people with disabilities have little control and choice, and where power is exercised over them to extreme degrees including through physical force, people with disabilities can become violent toward each other or toward support workers as a form of protest. This issue is often referred to as “challenging behaviours”, and dealt with via restrictive practices, such as the use of psychotropic medications. It is often wrongly perceived that people with disabilities are safer in institutional settings where they are “cared for” and “with their own kind”. In our experience, lateral violence is very common in institutional settings but is very poorly recognised as a serious issue with major impacts on people with disabilities.

We strongly recommended that the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), enacted through Australia’s ratification of the OPCAT, ensures oversight and accountability for restraint and seclusion of people with disability, with a strong focus on prevention. Advocacy for Inclusion has previously recommended that a national oversight body for the use of restraint and seclusion be established. Further, this body should adopt a social justice lens to ensure that restraint and seclusion are accurately recognised as abuse and a violation of human rights in group homes, congregate living arrangements and other institutional settings where people with disabilities are confined without choice and control.  

Check out our submission here in Word or PDF format: http://bit.ly/2vgAaN8

Follow our Twitter: @Adv4I_Policy

 

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JUL
10

The right to live independently (article 19)

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Recent submission to the call for comments on the draft General Comment on the right of persons with disabilities to live independently and be included in the community (Article 19)

 

Advocacy for Inclusion advocates for people with disabilities to have control over their own lives, as reflected in Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This week, we have responded to the call to reflect on the draft General Comment on Article 19.

In 2014, the CRPD Committee decided to prepare a draft General Comment on Article 19 of the Convention. The Committee considered that it was important to clarify the content of this article given that in its consideration of States parties’ reports, the Committee had identified gaps in putting into practice in areas globally and, to a certain extent, misconceptions about the right of persons with disabilities to choose their place of residence and where and with whom to live; the right of persons with disabilities to in-home, residential and community support services; and the right to community services and facilities available on an equal basis with the general population and which are responsive to the requirements of persons with disabilities.

Advocacy for Inclusion consistently campaigns against institutionalisation in our submissions, particularly in areas of forced co-tenancy arrangements and group living. Advocacy for Inclusion has seen examples of forced co-tenancy where a person with disability must live in a group home with another person or several with disability in order to receive supports and where a person must ‘agree’ to another person moving into their home so support can be shared.

Those in the mainstream community appear genuinely confused, while building companies and government department scratch their heads thinking they have got it ‘right’ with their contemporary and ‘modern’ ideas of what it means to live independently as a person with a disability. They groan inside when we, as advocates, argue that squashing tenants together unwillingly to share supports and cut the costs, create little villas, health care facilities and spacious group homes, will effectively solve the issue.

Forced co-tenancy means Article 19 is not met as an individual human right as the quality of support is diminished and the tenant loses the right to make important lifestyle choices, including who they share their home with and to what capacity.

We argued in a previous blog post that the issue is not about ‘inclusion’ or ‘companionship’ but about the effectiveness of pooling and saving money; that is, cost cutting. When two or more people with disabilities are accommodated together and share their supports, they generally require a smaller funding package each as it can be pooled and the support workers shared. The pre-NDIS block funding model forced people into these arrangements, because the funding was attached to service providers rather than to individuals, and there was significantly less funding available in general for disability supports. The NDIS is meant to revolutionise this not pour funding into holding up the old broken system, which left people with disabilities excluded, marginalised and at risk of harm.

Advocacy for Inclusion is beginning to see a rise in accommodation and housing advocacy needs where this issue is now becoming frequent under the NDIS where co-tenancy is favoured and is often pressured. Why? Cost-cutting, of course! Australia’s obligation as a State Party to uphold the recommendations and purpose of Article 19 is argued to be flawed – are we meeting our obligations? We are trying, but we have a long way to go to ensure that people with disabilities live FULLY integrated into the community and are involved in the decisions made about their own living arrangements.

Check out our submission here in Word or PDF format: http://bit.ly/2uAdEgR

Follow our Twitter: @Adv4I_Policy

 

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JUN
29

Submission to the Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee Inquiry to address outcomes of National Disability Strategy 2010-2020

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This week we had completed a new submission to address the outcomes of the National Disability Strategy 2010-2020 (NDS). In this submission, we emphasised our concern with the implementation of the NDS and the actions that have been implemented through Outcome 2 ‘Rights protection, justice and legislation’. in the areas of people with disabilities in the justice process, including prisons, child protection and guardianship. The National Disability Strategy 2010-2020 (NDS) is the foundation of Australia’s work to advance disability rights and recognises the experiences and needs of people with disabilities and their families are central to the Strategy, its vision and its principles’.

The Strategy is the national policy framework for guiding Australian governments to meet their obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and to implement the CRPD across a range of key outcome areas. Bluntly, very little has been done to implement Outcome 2, and few outcomes have been recorded as achievements either Australia-wide or in the ACT. There has been more focus on the National Disability Strategy outcome areas around employment, personal and community support, economic security and health and wellbeing, particularly with the implementation and rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The National Disability Strategy 2010-2010 is in year seven of a ten year strategy and three years remaining. The section of Outcome 2 ‘Rights protection, justice and legislation’ has seen no real action at either the ACT or national level.

The number of people with disabilities in the prison system Australia-wide, including the ACT, is significant and acknowledged, yet there is no consistent national data collected on people with disabilities in the criminal justice system.  Collecting national data will enable policy development in eliminating overrepresentation of people with disabilities entering and exiting the justice system.

Parents with cognitive disabilities continue to be over-represented in the child protection system and face significant barriers to reasonable participation in our justice system in child protection.  The number of parents with disabilities that face child removal by child protective services is very high, yet data about disability remains uncollected.

Despite the impact on self-determination and civil rights of guardianship orders, there is no presumption of legal representation for those facing the imposition of substitute decision making orders. The rights of people with disabilities who are subject to guardianship proceedings and have not been offered legal representation are not engaging in a fair and equitable justice process.

There are no current comprehensive policies in place to address Outcome 2 of the National Disability Strategy. While this continues the over representation of people with disabilities across all areas of the criminal and civil justice system will continue. Without systematic data collection, Australia will struggle to understand the scale and nature of what it is facing and continue to disadvantage and marginalise people with disabilities in the justice process.

It is highly critical that we get this right and there is little time left.

Check out our submission here in Word or PDF format: Access to Justice

Follow our Twitter: @Adv4I_Policy

 

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JUN
19

Defending Democracy – We Need to Continue the Fight

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Last week the Human Rights Law Centre released a report titled Defending democracy: safeguarding independent community voices. The report outlined the significant importance that community organisations, like Advocacy for Inclusion, deliver to public wellbeing and policy.

As civil society members, community organisations provide services on behalf of the Commonwealth, state and territory governments and ensure public debate continues and is heard. With increasing financial pressure and clauses introduced to our funding agreements, our community voices are becoming less heard and suppressed further. Advocacy for Inclusion actively fights to be heard on advocacy issues on behalf of people with disabilities that are heavily marginalised in the ACT. Through our self-advocacy groups and policy work, we are working to ensure that they are heard and develop the voice to be heard.

Advocacy is needed more than ever to ensure that the public debate continues for our most marginalised in the ACT and Australia-wide.
We support the following recommendations to:

• Federal and state governments should remove any clauses from funding agreements with NGOs (Advocacy for Inclusion is a DPO) that prevent government funding being used for law reform, policy and advocacy work.
• Standard terms should be introduced into federal and state funding agreements with NGOs to clarify that organisations with government funding are not preventing from entering the public debate or criticising governments.
• The Federal government should restore and ensure funding to peak sector bodies that undertake advocacy work on behalf of their sectors.
Advocacy for Inclusion also holds a DGR status and reply on our status to ensure that our work continues and our self-advocacy groups continue. We also see that it improves our organisation’s ability to foster a stronger, independent and diverse disability sector on behalf of our consumers.

The question can be asked: if we cannot criticise openly criticise our government and with reason, how do we hold our government to account in order to be included in active democracy?

Follow our Twitter: @Adv4I_Policy

 

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MAY
16

Federal Budget 2017-18 Release

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Advocacy for Inclusion welcomes the new Federal Budget initiatives surrounding the NDIS and the security of its funding under the full transition in 2020 Australia-wide.

It is promising that the Coalition government has committed funding of the NDIS as a priority within the Budget, through a 0.5% Medicare Levy increase which will be a viable approach to covering the NDIS costs to participants. The increase in levy will ensure that the needs of people with disability are fully supported and met.

We look forward to the establishment of the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Commission, a nationally consistent framework, and its implementation to provide quality services for NDIS participations. We are anticipating that such a commission will assist our work in advocacy for people with disabilities in an individual and systematic advocacy focus.

Despite a massive win with the NDIS in the Budget, one of the concerns that feature in the new Budget is the punishing welfare measures that will in plainly affect the most vulnerable in our communities, in particular people with disabilities. The increase in obligations and the potential demerit system targeted to people with disability who are unemployed and unable to work, is unfair and is likely to cause more harm than good.

Whilst our organisation does not solely work in the employment advocacy space, we focus hard on justice and the right to be equally part of society. In our work, we see and meet people who face significant barriers to accessibility of services and support within the Canberra community in form of housing, justice and parenting. We are concerned that a further difficult system to access income support or government support directed at people with disability who are highly vulnerable and are already heavily marginalised in our communities will create more problems than solutions.

The Budget has provided the disability community with a fabulous win of the fully-funded NDIS that will benefit people with disabilities; however, there are concerns that the marginalised will be further marginalised.

Follow our Twitter: @Adv4I_Policy

 

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FEB
22

Release of the Final Report: Review of the Domestic Adoption Process in the ACT

We have had a small loss with our recent submission to Review the ACT Adoption Process to the Domestic Adoptions Taskforce back in November.

The Community Directorate’s Final Report: Review of the Domestic Adoption Process in the ACT has been released.

Overall it is a disappointing report – disability is barely mentioned, but it was clear that we were not the only organisation arguing the concern of how consent is gathered from birth parents with disabilities when their child is removed and placed into the child protective system.

The only positive outcome is that the Adoption Taskforce acknowledged one of Advocacy for Inclusion’s recommendation to explore dispensation of consent provisions in the Adoption Act 1993 to allow the ACT to better respond to the complexity of out of home care circumstances – that is pretty much the only plus but they did argue back at it nonetheless.

One of the disappointing sections is on open adoption (p.11) where they state, “Contemporary adoption practices reflect a shift away from secrecy to open adoptions. All adoptions in the ACT are ‘open’, where the identities of birth parents are made known to children who are adopted and adoptive families. An open exchange of information and/or contact between the child and their birth parents/family is acknowledged as best practice”.

We argued in our submission that this is not actually happening and the birth parents with disability are often left out, particularly in the CYPS processes.

The Directorate has openly defended its consent-process when a child is being considered for adoption, but placed it under on their ‘to look at’ list no less. They argue that dispensation is a legal process by which a court may declare that the consent of a parent is not required for an adoption order to be granted.  This is hugely concerning as it basically saying that consent is not needed at all by the birth parent.

Disability is mentioned only p. 19 and Advocacy for Inclusion is quoted:

6.32. A common concern among respondents who commented on the consent process was the perceived lack of focus on support for birth parents. This view was put forward by community advocacy groups, for example:

“We do not see ‘capacity’ as being taken into account when the general consensus of CYPS and the ACT Government is a presumption that a parent with disability is unable to understand or exercise capacity at all.”

6.33. Furthermore, the needs of parents with disability should be supported to enable family restoration, but also with regard to adoption:

“women with disabilities who are parents, or who are seeking to become parents, report difficulty in accessing appropriate information, services and support.”

 

According the ACT Domestic Adoptions Taskforce, legal grounds for dispensation applications (no consent required) is set out under Section 35 of the Adoption Act 1993. It depends on individual cases, and where disability is court may, by order, nullify consent with reason that the. physical and mental condition of the person is such that he or she is not capable of considering properly the question of whether consent should be given.

A huge concern as we have continuously argue that parents with a disability facing the Child Protection System and have their children removed, should be required an advocate to enable them to make these decisions.

Out of all this, they did acknowledge that a review of the dispensation process is needed as a ‘possible area of reform’ in evaluating how birth parents, including those with disability, received support-focused mechanisms. It should not be considered a possible area of reform, but simply an area of reform alone.

Our submission was acknowledged and quoted on p.24:

6.60. Supporting birth parents to enable informed consent is a message put forward by many respondents. This includes providing education and resources, which are demonstrably effective, to enable a frank and emotionally adept conversation. One respondent commented that, unfortunately:

“there is a lack of suitable information available in Australia, including the ACT, on child-rearing as well as adoption measures for parents making a consenting choice.”

6.61. An element of continuing support includes informing the birth family of progress in the adoption process and confirming with the adoptive family that this has occurred, prior to further contact.

6.62. One respondent reported potential confusion with legislative frameworks in relation to the decision making capacity of parents with a disability. Specifically, the respondent reported disparities between:

“the Adoption Act 1993, the Children and Young Peoples Act 2014 [sic] and the Guardianship and Management of Property Act 1991 where the guidelines between decision-making capacity for a parent with disability, and the role of their guardian are ill-considered and confusing”. This was ours.

 

Follow our Twitter: @Adv4I_Policy

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FEB
06

Recent submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on women with disabilities and their right to escape violence without restriction

Advocacy for Inclusion works consistently with women with disabilities who are experiencing violence and have found the contexts in which these crimes occur are not recognised by the wider community as being forms of violence.

This week we have submitted our first submission for 2017 to the UN Special Rapporteur on the topic of Protection Orders and Shelters as ways of prevention and protection of violence against women. The issues covered in our *short* but loud publication highlight that women with disabilities are some of the most vulnerable members of the ACT community to all forms of violence and abuse.

They also experience more barriers than the rest of the community in accessing shelter and services when escaping domestic violence. Consequently, many are unable to realise their right to be free from violence and exploitation. The barriers include:

  • Inadequate awareness and understanding among the community of the experience of violence against women with disabilities, including a lack of research and data collection;
  • Denial among the community that the types of violence experienced by women with disabilities is actually violence;
  • Lack of legislative recognition and protections afforded to women with disabilities as victims of violence;
  • Lack of support, programs, resources and information appropriate and accessible for women with disabilities to help them be free from violence;
  • Mishandling by disability accommodation providers of incidents of violence against women with disabilities, including lack of training among staff on how to respond to such incidents

The particular vulnerability of women with disabilities experiencing dependence on abusive care givers or partners, which we see time and time again, also depend heavily on supports provided within a violent residential care setting, fear of consequences of reporting incidents due to this power differential, and for many a conditioning to violent treatment over a lifetime.

 

Submission 1 completed for 2017. Cheers to more coming!

Check out our submission here in Word or PDF format: http://linkis.com/org/RGLwS

Follow our Twitter: @Adv4I_Policy

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DEC
22

Submission to ACT Budget Consultation 2017–18

Submission to ACT Budget Consultation 2017–18

It is that time of the year again and the policy team have put together our submission to the ACT Budget Consultation 2017-18. We have gone slightly off the track of our usual budget model and have chosen to take this submission into an economic perspective. Our focus is:

 

Recognising Marginalisation - addressing systemic discrimination and inequality for people with disabilities in the ACT engaging with justice processes

 

This year, Advocacy for Inclusion have focussed our organisation to justice matters in the ACT and addressing the barriers to reasonable access to justice faced by people with disabilities.

The submission also designed and built an entirely new, and innovative, model of independent specialist disability advocacy. We have taken a strong position on reminding the government how much money it costs to imprison an individual, including a person with a disability. It is expensive and budgetary savings measures can be well-spent if advocacy is introduced at the beginning of the justice process as a base of early intervention, with the possibility to avoiding imprisonment altogether.

Our key areas of concerns throughout the paper are:

  1. Marginalisation and inequality
  2. Implementing the National Disability Strategy
  3. Recognising marginalisation in the justice system including as:
    1. An offender
    2. A parent
    3. A victim
  4. Equal participation in justice processes
  5. Budget savings through independent specialist disability advocacy

The core recommendation (on top of healthy 15 recommendations) that we are asking the government to take note of is to recognise that specialist disability responses to justice processes will reduce marginalisation and inequality for people with disabilities in the ACT, and immediately fund them appropriately.

The full submission is now available on our website.

Check out our submission here in Word or PDF format

Follow our Twitter: @Adv4I_Policy

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DEC
13

Privacy Needs to Remain Paramount!

Last week we submitted a submission Response to the JACS as a community contribution to on topic of Information Sharing in the Context of Family Violence.

The new ACT Government 2016-17 ‘Safer Families’ Package fails to recognise that people with disabilities do not all live in ‘family-like’ arrangements. Relationships, consensual or not, are not recognised if the person with disability is experiencing violence in their home by support workers, co-residents with disabilities, or kinship carers and this impacts on how information sharing should consider the privacy of individuals in these settings.

The core argument we made is that people with disabilities, including those with diverse decision-making abilities, are entitled to the same privacy rights as anyone else, including collection of their personal information by lawful means, the right to access and collect personal information held by agencies, restrictions on disclosure of personal information without consent unless lawfully authorised, and the right to hold organisations accountable when privacy and consent is breached in a domestic violence context.

Information sharing and privacy needs to be supported through strong policy and procedures and a clear mandate to both government and community providers that they respond to and support clients with disabilities, who have been experiencing domestic violence, with specialist awareness of the need for extra privacy protections.

It is vital that people with disabilities are considered when their privacy is shared among government agencies, service providers and even family members or guardians when the channels are further opened to allow “fluidity” to information sharing. The privacy of people with disabilities is already heavily eroded and the issue of lack of consent and disregard for individual privacy is at high risk of becoming further diminished with increased information sharing protocols.

 

Recommendation 1: The ACT Government must ensure that any information sharing between agencies and organisations in the family violence or child protection systems recognises the extreme lack of privacy generally afforded to people with disabilities and ensures strong mechanisms to specifically protect the information of people with disabilities including through the development of appropriate format consent processes.

 

Recommendation 2: Robust firewalls regarding information sharing and privacy of people with disabilities, particularly where consent is concerned, must be in place for all information held.

 

Recommendation 3: That the ACT government develop robust guidelines for agencies and organisations working in family violence services to recognise the culture and risks associated with sharing of information of people with disabilities living in congregate or ‘kinship’ arrangements to ensure further erosion of their privacy is explicitly prevented.

Read the full submission here: http://www.advocacyforinclusion.org/Information_Sharing__Family_Violence_Submission_FINAL.pdf

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NOV
17

Recent submission to the review of the ACT adoption process

As we are beginning to steadily tap louder on the door of child protection issues, we have submitted our latest submission to contest the review of the ACT adoption process. The ACT Government has created a Cross-Directorate Domestic Adoption Taskforce, which has been formed to make recommendations regarding the domestic adoption process to ensure that children and young people are placed in permanent and stable homes. They had requested open recommendations to find out how the ACT adoption process is working out over the past 12 months with its changes to legislation for Out of Home Care. What the process is really about is lessening the ‘burden’ of numbers of children currently in Out of Home Care (OOHC) and placing them with permanent families. It all looks rosy from the outside – BUT! When you are facing a parent with disability, who has had their child taken into custody and then been given a long-term (to 18 years of age) order, the reality is looking grim. Particularly if that parent had not been given the opportunity to learn or develop their parenting skills like any other parent; if they had not provided consent to the adoption in the first instance by law or are denied the opportunity to appeal and consent; had not received appropriate legal or advocacy representation when facing child protection authorities, and being presumed unfit to parent just because they have a disability and do not fit in the ‘normal-society-member’ box. We do not support the adoption of children of parents with disabilities in the ACT, before appropriate support has been offered to the parent as a first response to any concerns raised about their parenting. Presently, a safeguard between the interests of the child and their parents has been built on inaccurate assumptions regarding parental incapacity, the lack of appropriate family supports, predictions of the likelihood of future neglect and harm to children in a risk-averse society. Core Recommendation: Actions should be taken immediately to ensure the rights of parents with disabilities and their children in new adoption changes. Check out our submission here in Word or PDF format: http://bit.ly/2fPDcD4 Follow our Twitter: @Adv4I_Policy
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SEP
29

Final Guardianship Report has arrived!

Followers of Advocacy for Inclusion would remember that in 2015, Advocacy for Inclusion had submitted a submission to the ACT Law Reform Advisory Council to urge that people with disabilities remained in control of how they wish to engage in support for their decision making.

 

It has finally arrived! Advocacy for Inclusion have been eagerly awaiting the completion of the report for ACT Guardianship arrangements for adult people with disabilities since 2014.

 

The report is not disappointing, yet it will prove interesting in how law reform will support the Supported Decision Making Act. The recommendations that have been highlighted by the ACT Law Reform Advisory Council have demonstrated that enough is known to commence a legislative reform process. The process will see changes of legislation apply to all relevant civil legislation in the ACT as well as changing other legislation.

 

It has been a long road since Advocacy for Inclusion has argued for major changes in both the laws of guardianship, how it works in our society and in practice. The importance for individuals with disabilities to make their own decisions is paramount and is stepping closer to being fully in line with international human rights law, and specifically the standards contained in Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

 

 

Follow us on Twitter:@Adv4Inclusion  and  @Adv4I_Policy

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