Guidance and training

Recommendation 4–11           The Australian Government should ensure that persons who require decision-making support, and their supporters and representatives, are provided with information and guidance to enable them to understand their functions and duties.

Recommendation 4–12           The Australian Government should ensure that employees and contractors of Commonwealth agencies who engage with supporters and representatives are provided with information, guidance and training in relation to the roles of supporters and representatives.

4.158   Consistent information and advice, and targeted guidance and training for all parties involved in the Commonwealth decision-making model is of vital importance in ensuring its effective operation.

4.159   Guidance and training also contributes to the fulfilment of Australia’s obligations under art 4 of the CRPD to promote training in the rights recognised in the CRPD so as to better provide the assistance and services guaranteed by those rights.[164] It may also respond to recommendations made by the UNCRPD that Australia

provide training, in consultation and cooperation with persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, at the national, regional and local levels for all actors, including civil servants, judges and social workers, on recognition of the legal capacity of persons with disabilities and on the primacy of supported decision-making mechanisms in the exercise of legal capacity.[165]

4.160   It will be important to develop and deliver accessible and culturally appropriate information, guidance and training for:

  • people who require decision-making support;[166]

  • supporters and representatives;[167] and

  • the employees and contractors of Commonwealth agencies which operate under the recommended model.

4.161   This approach was strongly encouraged by stakeholders.[168] For example, NDS observed that

To effectively implement both the supporter and representative role and more broadly the national decision-making principles, there is a need for an awareness-raising and learning and development strategy. Specific guidance and training needs to be available for the decision-maker, supporters, representatives and Commonwealth agencies interacting with the decision-maker.[169]

4.162   One obvious concern was for guidance and training that focuses on the concept of supported decision-making itself.[170] The point at which supported decision-making moves to representative decision-making needs to be closely monitored by supporters, and by the Commonwealth agencies responsible for implementing the scheme.[171]

[A] key element in educating supporters is that they have a support role only: the supporter is not the decision maker, and is educated as such on support strategies, and how not to inadvertently become a substitute decision maker in this role.[172]

4.163   Another concern was training in developing people’s decision-making ability. Stakeholders emphasised the need for ‘training and support being provided for people with disabilities to enhance their own decision making skills and their understanding of the various options for assistance’.[173] NSWCID submitted that for some people with intellectual disability,

in ideal circumstances they may be able to make their own decisions. However, they may not be in those circumstances in that they have had very limited exposure to alternatives to current deprived lifestyles and/or are in entrenched relationships of control (benevolent or malevolent) by family members or other long-standing people in their lives.[174]

4.164   Scope submitted that resources and supports are required to build decision-making ability and that

An evidence base is growing that supports the notion that all people, regardless of their level of cognitive impairment, can have their preferences heard through highly collaborative, detailed and lengthy supported decision making processes. These processes are reliant on strong circles of support that work collaboratively to support people to participate in decisions that reflect their preferences.[175]

4.165   More broadly, stakeholders highlighted that the development and integration of supported decision-making will require significant cultural and attitudinal change within the community.[176] NACLC, for example, suggested that, in addition to education and training for those engaged directly in the decision-making, a national community awareness and education campaign should be recommended.[177]