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Advocacy for Inclusion Blog

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MAY
16

Federal Budget 2017-18 Release

Copy-of-Latest-News-1

 

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.

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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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