Friday, February 24, 2017
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Advocacy for Inclusion Blog

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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
21

Things are what you make of them.

Things don't always go to plan.

As part of our role as Trainers at Advocacy for Inclusion, we facilitate Self Advocacy groups. As facilitators it is our job to help things run smoothly not to direct the groups. It is the self advocates themselves who direct the groups and the topics. Many of the groups have self advocates who have been using their skills for some time and take a leadership role and we don't have much in the way of facilitating to do. 

Sometimes things do not go quite to plan and this is usually when the biggest opportunity for skill building and practising self advocacy skills occur. The Trainers will step in and take the facilitating role to its true meaning of "smoothing things"

Recently we had two people with a difference of opinion. Pretty much an everyday occurrence you would think. However, often people with disability are stopped from sharing their opinion, perhaps told that their opinions do not matter, are unimportant or simply are just never asked. Many people with disability have been so marginalised they have never been taught the skills to deal with this sort of confrontation appropriately or given the opportunity to practice the skills if this should arise. It is the sort of thing that leads to "challenging behaviour" as they feel unheard.

In our groups, everyone has a voice and is encouraged to share their thoughts. In this case, as I said, there was a difference of opinion. Voices became raised, people were visibly upset. So what did we do? We collectively agreed we all had an opinion. We all agreed they were different. We all agreed we had the right to our own opinion. People were given the opportunity to express their opinion and identify what they felt and why. We focused on staying calm and using respect - in our language, in our volume and in our body language. All skills required to be able to self advocate effectively.

Everyone in the end felt heard. Everyone in the end felt respected. Everyone was able to accept we had different opinions and that was ok as long as we were assertive and not agressive.

We finished off our group session each describing a time when we felt the happiness. What do you know - they were all very similar and despite our differences of opinion earlier, we had found a common place in the end.

As one of the self advocates involved shared with us as we were packing up. 

"life is like the weather, you never know when it is going to change" You need to be prepared.

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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
21

2017 Self-Advocacy groups

2017 is already here and we are looking forward to another exciting and challenging year ahead of us. Membership is open to join either our Self-Advocacy or Mothers Self- Advocacy groups.

At the Self-Advocacy groups you will learn about your rights and how to exercise them. You will learn skills for speaking confidently. You will have the opportunity to discuss current affairs and local issues.

At the Mother’s group all of the above plus the opportunity to share your experiences with other mother’s with a disability. Your children might be living with you or in care. The Self-Advocacy Mothers group is place where you learn about yours and your children’s rights.

The groups are free and open to anyone with a disability.

Upcoming dates for the groups for 2017 are:

Self-Advocacy Plus                                       Mother’s Self Advocacy

Mondays                                                       Tuesdays

16 January                                                    17 January

13 February                                                   21 February

20 March 2017                                              21 March

Come along all people with disability welcome

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