La Trobe Law School Assists in Submission to Senate NDIS Inquiry

Annabelle Pendlebury, Patrick Keyzer and Darren O’Donovan recently assisted the First Peoples Disability Network in the creation of a legislative submission to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The Committee is currently inquiring into the provision of services under the NDIS for people with psychosocial disabilities related to a mental health condition. The submission is available here

The submission addresses a number of key elements to the delivery of the NDIS focussing in particular upon the difficulties indigenous Australians may face in establishing eligibility and in securing adequate services. It argues for effective participation of indigenous people in delivery and design of implementation programmes, stressing the importance of community led solutions. It reflects

Amongst the key recommendations of the submission are that:

    • The NDIA develops a specific practice module for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within its mental health policies and framework that acknowledges and is informed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experiences of trauma and social isolation.
    • There is a need for investment in sustainable, secure, individualised, culturally responsive accommodation; in order to avoid the inappropriate use of prisons or detention centres for people with cognitive impairment. As an alternative to incarceration, accommodation options should meet both the security needs of people with cognitive impairment, as well as their therapeutic service needs. Secure care facilities and accommodation should be staffed with culturally responsive caseworkers, applying case and risk management approaches in a non-punitive, therapeutic way.
    • In order to address the criminalisation of people with cognitive impairment, early intervention should be prioritised. The provision of services under the NDIS for people in need of forensic disability services should include early assessment, diagnosis, support and intervention services. There must be funding for culturally appropriate disability support systems in the community. Timely intervention can prevent criminalisation by identifying and addressing root causes of offending behaviour.
    • The NDIS should fund service provision that bridges the gap between correctional settings and the community. The NDIS should incorporate mechanisms for planning of service provision to occur whilst the person is in prison, to achieve effective community reintegration on release. This kind of planning for post-release services should be undertaken with the same worker, both in the prison and upon returning to the community. Therefore, NDIS service provision needs to be able to continue throughout a period of incarceration, to improve community reintegration and reduce the likelihood of an unnecessary return to prison.
    • Funding needs to be invested in the professional development and ongoing supervision of staff in order to create a skilled workforce, trained in multiple and overlapping areas (disabilities, mental health, cultural awareness and sensitivity).
    • It is crucial that people with cognitive impairment who have complex support needs can have access to an advocate or support person to assist with the NDIS application process so the individual’s wishes are communicated. This kind of support must be available within the criminal justice system.
    • The NDIA should encourage and support a concerted outreach approach, to help make the NDIS accessible to all those in need. There should be funding in place that enables organisations to open up a dialogue with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities around disability.


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