Justice Advocacy for people with cognitive impairment
Articles,  Blog

Justice Advocacy for people with cognitive impairment

hello everyone and welcome to today’s
webinar justice for people with cognitive impairment today we are
running this webinar from the legal aid New South Wales Central Sydney office
we’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land the gadigal
people of the eora nation and pay our respects to elders past and present and
also extend that respect to any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
people listening today my name is Kerry Wright and I work in the Legal Aid New
South Wales community legal education branch here in Sydney today I’m joined
by Karina Nolan from the intellectual disability rights service justice
advocacy service hi Karina hi Kerry so what we’re going to do to start off our
webinar is we’re going to do some hands up get some idea of who’s out there so
we’re going to do a couple of questions and just need to use your little hands
up on your sidebar of your control panel so hands up if you’ve heard about the
intellectual disability rights service let’s see if oh yes we’ve got a few
Karina great I’ve got six people who’ve said that hands up if you’ve heard about
the criminal justice support network I’ve got a few one – okay and a few
questions hands up if you’ve heard about the justice advocacy service and we’ve
got a few more of those it looks like the words getting out thats fantastic
all right that’s great thank you everybody
you don’t need to worry about your hands up anymore but what we’re going to do
now is a poll question so this is a poll just to find out the question is how
often do you assist clients with cognitive impairment? So we just want you
to select one of those options all the time almost every client sometimes never
or I’m not sure because you may not actually assess people
regarding their cognitive impairment so I’ve just see they give you some time to
complete that most of you have voted okay so we might close that poll and
share it with you all so Karina we’ve got 54% of people said
sometimes 31% said all of the time almost every client okay
8% said never an 8% said they’re not sure so we’ve got a good mix of people
yeah so that’s that’s great to have all of you here so now we’re going
to have a chat to Karina so the purpose of today’s webinar is to help you
understand how the justice advocacy service supports people with cognitive
impairment in contact with the New South Wales criminal justice system we’re
going to look at what is the justice advocacy service who does the justice
advocacy service help the services that JAS provides I think I’m going to call
it JAS for me yes how to get in touch with JAS and Karina I understand the
criminal justice support network is now the justice advocacy services that right
that’s correct yes so how did that come about? Well the criminal justice support
network we used to be funded by aging disability and homecare and once
they stopped operating that was our funding at jeopardy and the risk of us
closing down so we then went to a tender process and the New South Wales
Department of Justice diversity services we were successful in that tender so
they are now our new funding which is why anew development of JAS has come
about the big difference is of course with that is their criminal justice
support network we operated to 10:00 p.m. at night
our new JAS program is now operating 24/7 which is fabulous we were with the
criminal justice support network we had three offices in the state in Newcastle Wollongong and Sydney and I we have 17 around the state so the growth
is massive and we’ve grown into a fabulous big organization turning into
the dream amazing and do you and I guess people can find details of where all
those offices are on your website yes absolutely so on the IDRS website
there’s a phone list of where we’re located okay and when did you start? We
started in July, July 2019 oh yeah so we’re not long so yes we’re still in the
developing training and getting out there stage okay thank you
so Karina if your audience today could only remember three things from what we
talked about hopefully they’ll remember more these are your three things why did
you choose these three? Well JAS is a 24-hour seven police support service I
think this is a really important point to make that clients can access this
service if they’ve been arrested during the night or they’re a victim of a crime
we can provide a support person at that station with them and free telephone
legal advice as well our services are free so clients don’t have to pay for
them clients do not need to have NDIS to access the JAS service and we also
don’t require people to prove their disability to us so they don’t have to
show us any evidence that they do have a disability either okay thank you all
right and we’ll talk a little bit more about those topics as we go through our
webinar so Karina tell us what is the justice advocacy service so the JAS at
the justice advocacy service provides support to people with cognitive
impairments in contact with the New South Wales criminal justice system we
work with victims witnesses suspects and defendants to
exercise the rights and fully participate in the process our service
provides support to both adults and young people with a cognitive impairment
and we use an individual advocacy approach by arranging a support person
to be with victims witnesses suspects or defendants when they are in contact with
police courts and legal representatives you’ve already told us
how JAS came about with the closing and your service being at
risk yeah and then a tender and you got that money and now it’s rolling out but
who actually runs JAS so JAS is run by the intellectual disability rights
service and receives our funding from the New South Wales justice so we still
operate under the intellectual disability rights service with this new
justice advocacy service attached and does JAS have a different kind of board
or will they have a working group now the board is such but there is a working
group that meet regularly the police are involved in that and different
departments of justice which contribute to the running of the operation of it
and how it’s delivered which is you know a great input from all those areas
exactly now that sounds good well now we’re
going to do another poll with you all just to see if you’ve had any experience
referring people to the criminal to assistance if they’ve had an issue in
the criminal justice system so let us know you can choose more than one option
if you have preferred a person with cognitive impairment for legal help was
it to legal aid your local Community Legal Centre the intellectual disability
rights service another legal service or you haven’t done this people are still voting thinking about
it okay alright so we’ll close that poll think everybody’s had a go okay and
we’ll share what it tells us so Karina 53 or 60% have referred to their local
Community Legal Center and I guess the intellectual disability rights service
is that community leader center as well so majority of people have used a
Community Legal Center 53% to legal aid 13% to another legal service and 13%
they haven’t done that so there’s a good mix there people are using a range of
services for their clients with cognitive impairment so what we’ll get
you to do now Karina is tell us I’m still waiting for that to change Oh
what is cognitive impairment so a cognitive impairment is when a person
has trouble remembering or learning new things concentrating or making decisions
that affect their everyday life and a cognitive impairment I can range from
mild to severe so the types of cognitive impairments that we see with people
would include an intellectual disability borderline intellectual functioning a
person with dementia person who may have quired
acquired a brain injury fetal alcohol syndrome our drug and alcohol brain
related damage and people with autism spectrum these are some of the areas
that we see and work with and they’re defined under this act we’ve just brought up the information about yes they are defined
under the mental health forensic provisions Act and you mentioned earlier
Karina that people don’t have to have an actual medical diagnosis to access your
service is that right that’s right they don’t yes so
you know if the police have called us because they do have a person with a
disability we will ask the police how they’ve come up with that and they will
explain to us you know the person is showing signs of difficulty
understanding what’s happening they’re not really understanding the process
it’s happening or questions or anything that’s been explained to them so that’s
enough for us to to get involved and to help that person through the process so
once you’ve come to the police station and you have helped them if you’re going
to offer ongoing help do you do any sort of assessment or need any extra evidence
no we don’t we don’t require any evidence about a person’s disability
okay thank you all right so who does the justice advocacy service help so we work
with people with cognitive impairments if they’re a victim of a crime if
they’re our witness to a crime if they’ve been suspected of a crime or a
defendant in a crime and we’ve just had a question Karina do you find the
police do make adequate contact yes and that’s really improving as we are
expanding and growing so of course we want more referrals from the police and
we want police contacting us more and we have always done a lot of dducation with
the police and plans for a lot more of that as well and they’re part of that
JAS working group as well that I mentioned earlier
so yes getting that news out to all the commands throughout New South Wales
excellent thank you and so you’ve talked about police
stations where else do you provide your help so police stations the courtroom
legal appointments that might be a a legal aid appointment or speaking
with a lawyer we also can attend Youth Justice conferencing with the client
mediation a court directed mediation we can also provide support there and we
also provide support during audio-visual link-up so if we have a person that’s in
and they’re appearing on the screen linking into court we go into the prison
and sit with them and go through that process with them as well
right that’s really extensive yeah yeah okay well that’s fantastic and you said
it’s all over New South Wales yes we are a statewide service and the exciting
news now of course with JAS is that we are recruiting and training more
volunteers we have justice advocates at those 17 offices throughout New South
Wales as well so we are reaching able to reach more people with a cognitive
impairment that would need our help so each of the offices do they have a
paid staff person so our justice advocates are a paired staff member and
their role is whatever their area is region is to assist people that fit into
these categories of Victim Witness defendant if it’s court or police are
legal and then to organise a trained volunteer to attend court with that
person or police or whatever our justice advocates will also do that work and are
able to do that more intensive work by referring the client to services during
that process as well once that is identified that there’s a need for that
okay thank you so now we’re going to look at the the
clients that you help and the support people so tell us a bit more about these
support people Karina our trained volunteers so they will receive a two
day training one-day court support training and one day police support
training will try in there to include a visit to the local police station to
visit the custody areas or our trained volunteers have exposure to that before
they go in and do supports we have during that training we will train our
volunteers on communication skills where working with a person with the cognitive
impairment I train them about what the legal system looks like what they can
come up against working with lawyers working with people from the Justice
Department and helping facilitate that communication between the client and the
legal sector okay and do you have volunteers who have come from diverse
cultural backgrounds as well yes we do we we do have that which is great and
in indigenous volunteers as well we have we have volunteers from all areas which
is really great so we will be able to reach that wider community as well
definitely and you were talking about earlier about the the lawyers that give
legal advice as well yes or IDRS lawyers they will give legal advice for free as
well it is a free legal advice that is provided at police stations over the
telephone seven days a week 24 hours a day okay and is that the phone number
that people ring yes 1300 665 908 okay and if you had much take-up since some
since you started do you know how many calls you get yeah we’ve actually really
we’re really starting to get very busy so yeah the there there was a report
that I had a brief look at and the numbers have really increased we’re
really on target and yeah there’s a great increase people are using us as in
police services community families and clients so right yeah so the words
definitely getting out so we’re going to do another poll question now just to
check that you’re all listening to us and taking in what Karina is saying so
this poll question is if your client was taken to the police station at midnight
on a Tuesday night can they call the IDRS lawyer for advice yes or no just
see if people were voting looks like nearly all of them have okay
so I’ll close that poll and I’ll share the results with you Karina so
ninety-three percent said yes and it seven percent said no okay so what about
those nos’s that they think that they couldn’t call the police
well they certainly can call and I with the 24 hour of service in place we knew
we are operating so they can call us anytime
any time any day and we’re open every single day and when people do
call well here we go here’s the question do you provide interpreters if someone
rings that line so what we would we be it we would encourage then for the
police to use the telephone interpreting service that they do have access to if
we have gone to police station and we do realize that a person does need an
interpreter we can and contact that service by the phone while at the police
station if needed okay and you find that works all right it can I have used it in
the past and yes we have an interpreter over the telephone that’s assisting so
the interpretive service is also 24 hours and telephone services yes yes yes
yeah and I guess in some cases you may have a support person who speaks that
language yes we do and with the increase of recruitment and training we have
volunteers from all walks of life and different diverse areas and it’s been
really positive that we will be able to just be able to provide that better
service – do you have a target for your volunteers how many people are you
thinking ultimately you plan to have as in volunteers yeah we just keep training
them and I mean I guess it’s envisage that we are going to get very busy so we
do have we to have that large pool of volunteers so
that we can deliver the service that we have promised to deliver yeah well here
we go what do the JAS support people do then well firstly we do facilitate and
support and encourage clients to participate in their matters actively
and our volunteers the main role is facilitating communication between the
legal center the legal service and the client we will help clients to remember
appointments and know what to expect understanding and exercising rights is a
big area we spend a lot of time making sure the client has understood their
rights and we never ask a client do you understand that
and we don’t assume that the client hasn’t understood something we’ll just
get them to tell us what they thought that was all about and then we’ll know
if we need to go into something more involved with them any legal outcomes
maybe if there was bail conditions AVO’s court outcomes we spend time
going through these to make sure that the person understands them and complies
with them and understands what happens if they don’t if if we’re involved in
that support role and communication is an issue with police or lawyers or
whoever may be speaking then we’ll be checking that understanding all the time
and maybe requesting and asking if the person from the legal sector could
rephrase that are certainly different way just to make sure that person has
got that message and any follow-ups will also do that in particular the justice
advocates will do the referrals where as needed and sometimes that has really
well most the times has really good outcomes in court because you know
magistrates want to see that somebody’s being linked in with a service to try
and reduce offending behaviour we’re there of course to keep people calm and
try and reduce those anxieties and provide that emotional support as well
and if there was any paperwork may be a legal aid application
or something like that somebody needed that assistance with we would help with
that as well and I’ve got a question here Karina given the person where the
cognitive impairment is likely vulnerable is it common that a family
member or carer or other informal support person is present with the
individual also I mean that happens a lot and we would have somebody else
there which is great and can be that great support for the person that
they’re with we would always explain our role is to do all that facilitating
communication helping the person to understand and exercise the right and
that legal support just so they know exactly what our role is there and that
it’s great to have them along side for that extra support and information that
might be very helpful to the person well that answers this person second question
because they were asking are they present when the support person from
JAS is working with the individuals so so you you don’t say that they can’t be
present no no absolutely honest we we just try and encourage them to let us do
our role what were there to do and it’s great to have them there for that
support and extra information and you know the client themselves will be
comfortable with having them there but again just reassuring them what our role
and what we’re doing and what were there for is to help the client understand
those things and get that communication flowing between client and the legal
sector then I guess at the same time the support person or the family member may
also be learning about the system and quite a lot of yeah look I guess the
only time we’d probably discourage a family member would be if somebody was
in custody at a police cell and maybe mom or brother or whoever it might be
want to be that support person we would probably then try and encourage let us
do that support because it can be very stressful for a family member to listen
to things to be there it’s a very stressful situation
and if that did happen having our support in there at the police station
and communicating with the family member and keeping them up-to-date about what’s
happening where the process is up to okay so your volunteers do that as well
so they they sort of act as a go-between yes our volunteers are supported all the
time by their advocates so they can get any extra assistance if needed to talk
about this with family members or services that might be involved and with
the volunteers do they get any support themselves like if they need to debrief
after a stressful night in the police station for example definitely so they
have access to us all the time during that whole support process so if it is
2:00am in the morning and one of us are on call then we’ll be up with them during
that they can ask us questions as much as they want to come back to us as much
as they want afterwards a little debrief with the volunteer make sure they get
home and their home when they’re feeling okay they also provide us with a report
after every support and if there was any ongoing concerns our worry for the
volunteers we have a free counseling service that they can access as well
okay and I’ve got another question here I find the justice system tells us of
court days dates while they are in court does JAS help support to navigate
clear communication with the legal team so I guess they’re just wondering
if it helps with information flow between the lawyers and the client as
well and the courts and the client yes so we if there’s new court dates and
that being mentioned in court then we collect those dates make sure the client
is aware of those days after a matters finished in court our support people
with the client will wait outside the courtroom and wait for the lawyer to
come out once they’re finished and get the lawyer to explain what’s happened
what the next Court date is what that next process is as well okay and then
someone else has written can people access legal advice we’re not at the
police station as someone with cognitive impairment may not remember to call
while there yes so people can access the IDRS part of us the intellectual
disability right service if they needed legal advice on a variety of matters
they would be able to call up and say that they’re looking for some legal
advice about something and again that is free advice yes but from what I
understand you’re trying to train the police that they will call automatically
it’s not really up to the person to say I need to talk to IDRS at that time if
if at a police station and in a police cell then we will have a lawyer ready to
give that advice over the telephone outside of that if a person wasn’t at
the police station at court they could also use our service for legal advice if
that was all they required okay and that’s generally over the phone it is
over the phone okay so now we’re going to look at a couple of people and get
you Karina to tell us how JAS would help them so this is Amy Amy’s a victim
of crime so how would the JAS support people help Amy so what we would
normally do there when we have a victim of a crime or someone comes to us that
needs help we would arrange time to speak with police
so that Amy would be able to give her statement to the police
once that’s arranged we might often request of the police for a more
comfortable room for a victim to sit in so they feel more relaxed and
comfortable with victims in the past timelines can be very difficult it’s
very traumatic for any victim to retell what’s happened so if if it is too
stressful what we’ve done in the past is maybe do a statement for 45 minutes and
then leave it come back on another day do more of the statement so the police
are quite open to us adjusting that to make it better for the victim to be able
to to give their story and to tell their
side of the story so we help facilitate that and make it easier I guess for the
victim okay we during that statement we will request breaks for the victim
we will check for you know they’ve understood something maybe if the police
have asked something and it’s clear that Amy hasn’t understood what’s been asked
of her then we’ll go back to that again we will also if the matter proceeded to
court we would go through that court process with Amy as well providing
support and we do some court preparation for her as well maybe if she was going
to give evidence through the CCTV room so if it for example a district court
matter she would be able to sit in a secluded room not in the courtroom to
give her evidence and we would arrange for her to see that room before she
would actually have to do that and sit next to her when she is doing that and
we’d also do any referrals for Amy to Victim Services as well that that came
up and was required okay thank you so we now have a look at Michael’s so Michael
was a witness to crime what what sort of help would you provide to Michael so
much the same as when we work with a victim of a crime you know for him to
retell that story and to explain to the police what he has seen then we would
sit with him make sure the communication is flowing checking for understanding
asking the police to reword if there was a communication issue identified if it
didn’t proceed to court we would again go through that court process with
Michael support him at court and if it was a situation where it was his first
time giving evidence very nervous about that then we could ask for access to the
courtroom for him to be able to give him his evidence so he could see the
courtroom for that and become familiar with that
so we could do that called preparation stuff as well calling him the day before
arranging to meet him and being there throughout okay thank you and then
finally we’ll have a look at Kim so Kim is a crime suspect with the police how
would you help him so we’ve Kim if if Kim was at a police
station then we would be able to offer somebody to be at the police station
with Kim we would go through Kim’s rights at the police station and we
would have a lawyer that would give advice over the telephone
Kim would receive that advice over the phone and that advice is really about
whether to do an interview or not to do an interview and about their rights
about Kim’s rights while at the station our support person would then hear that
advice as well so we were all on the same page and we know what’s happening
and we would help communicate that to police and normally get our lawyer to
tell the police as well that for example Kim’s been told not to do an interview
or whatever it may be and get the lawyer to explain that to the custody manager
at the police station as well we would stay with Kim throughout that process
until the police decided what they were going to do whether Kim was going to get
bail or be been refused if the matter proceeded to court we would then link
Kim in with a lawyer if there was legal in for example or ALS in the area and
we’d attend that appointment with them and help facility of that communication
and then again go through the court process with Kim explaining everything
finding his courtroom and facilitating communication there too and any
referrals that might come up during that process and we go to every single court
appearance okay wow that’s a comprehensive service I must say okay so
now we’re just going to have a quick chat about training you’ve talked a
little bit about training so what other training for your support people are you planning on delivering
well for years we have been delivering training at the Goulburn police academy
so we trained there and Hurstville monthly for custody managers the
officers who look after the custody area to police station and part of that
training obviously we introduce our service and what we can provide helping
the police to identify a person with a cognitive impairment some communication
skills for the police around communicating with person with a
cognitive impairment and making them think about adjusting their
communication when they do have a person with a disability in custody as well so
that that is delivered monthly and those police that attend that come from all
over New South Wales well what about just staff so with this new project now
that we have the JAS program we’ve got a training needs analysis happening at
the moment which started a month ago and it will be finalised in January and part
of that analysis is to for them to connect with all areas of the Justice
Department from judges magistrate correctives police court staff anyone
court users anyone involved and finding not what the training needs are what
understanding people have of cognitive impairment
the difficulties people have communication techniques they’re all
that kind of stuff so they’re going to come back to us in
January with what they have found and look at a year like the year ahead and
where we can deliver that training how we reach all these areas in New South
Wales and what kind of training that people are requiring them that they need
and we’ve got up there and a note that people can contact Matt French at JAS
to ask about the training that’s coming up yes so Matt French is our new
training and capacity manager and we’re not limited to training so if Community
Services wanted training clients needed something
education around anything but certainly give him a call give us a call and we
can talk through your needs or what you feel might benefit and and look about
how we can work through that and develop some training around that to work within
their services area of need fantastic I have a question here I’m
just thinking you may have answered it are there procedures in place for
supporting people who have communication difficulties through participation with
police and court such as visuals or social stories or is it based
individually it’s cases by case and depending on what
the needs of the client is if there was particular communication difficulties
and there was family members or services involved and a person you required aides
to communicate we would work very closely with with the person with the
services that are working with them and police or courts or whoever it was to
make sure that we’re meeting those communication needs okay thank you
so now we’re going to talk about how do we get in touch I think someone’s asked
about that they’d like an email contact here’s your email contact and your phone
contacts yes and on the website I understand there’s a referral fact sheet
is that right yes I believe that is up there as well so as people can refer to
that and have a look and what I use the referral like what happens when people
ring JAS and try to refer someone so when you call the 1300 number you will go
through to our intake team and the intake team will take the details of the
referring person we will take the client details we must also confirm the client
has consented to the referral that they do want our help
we will collect support details whether it’s court police
legal details for the client contact details and we will also
require any other person’s details who might be involved in a matter with
involving the person so maybe if there was a victim or a defendant or whatever
the situation may be we would require that information as well and if anyone
has any questions based on what we’ve talked about yesterday can they email
use that email address yes absolutely just absolutely
IDR.org.au www.justiceadvocacy.org.au one word
and the phone number is 1300 665 908 and I’ve also just brought
up on the screens and some information that New South Wales justice has a
resource so you have to go to court and it’s for people with cognitive
impairment and the email that you’ll receive after the webinar has a link to
that resource plus a link to the JAS website so hopefully that’s all the
contact details that you’ll need so what we’re going to do now is our last poll
question so I’ll just pull that up and launch it this is our poll question do
you feel more confident to make about making a referral to JAS after doing
this webinar the answers are yes no sort of but I know I can ring JAS to get
more information so I’m just waiting for everyone to vote most people have stayed
with us because it’s just great okay so I’ll close that and share the results so
81 percent have said yes great so that’s a great outcome Thank You Karina and 19
percent of said sort of but they know they can ring you and get more information
so I think Karina would definitely encourage that yes that’s getting too
using those those different contacts that are on the screen now okay so we’ve come to the end of our
webinar we’re just going to say thank you and if you’ve got any other
questions type them in your question panel or you can email the legal [email protected] and we can pass on any questions to Karina
so we’ll just stay online in case any of you have any other questions so I’d also
like to let you know that legal aid New South Wales have a number of podcasts
and webinars on other topics you may be interested in learning about we’ve got a
series about the NDIS and also the new sentencing laws that came into effect
last year you can find these on the legal aid New South Wales YouTube
channel and a link will be in the email that sent after we close the webinar so
we’ve got thanks for organizing this webinar webinar quick question would it
be possible to get a copy of the recording so that was my next thing I
was going to say is in about now you’ll receive an email with links to the
feedback survey and all the resources we’ve discussed during the webinar today
if you go onto the legal aid YouTube channel next week we will have the
recording of this webinar up there does the assigned support person remain the
same throughout the whole process yes they can and we do try to keep the same
support person if we knew that a matter I was going to run for quite a length of
time then what we would do is organize perhaps to support people with the
Advocate as that back up so that we could share that support but the person
will have the same two people for example during during their support and
how long do you think people generally stay involved with someone anywhere from
six months to three years can be can be how long things can go for in the
justice system and that would be through a
number of courts as well yeah well we can see people in the local court
anywhere between six months to two years and if a matter ran from local court
into district court again that could go up to three years okay and the next
question is does JAS work with parents or carers of minors who are in custody
or suspected of a crime or do they only work on behalf of the individual we do
work if there was a young person with a cognitive impairment in custody we would
work with the person in custody we are looking at that we have been asked this
question before but it we work with the family as well but the person with the
disability would be who we would work with in custody okay and the other
question is what if they’re victims of crime and they’re being questioned in
places such as at school do you support them in that context we do we would
normally encourage that to happen at a police station if the police did contact
us and said that they were going to talk to a victim of a crime in a school we
would certainly look at that and look at maybe one of our advocates would go to
do such a support our volunteers would go to the police station or to the court
or to a legal office we wouldn’t be sending them to schools and that but one
of our staff may be able to assist with that okay yes so you’ve got different
backup options yeah okay we’re just wondering if there’s any other questions
nothing has come through oh we got a thank you oh yes oh thank you
everyone for listening and participating today and I’d like to thank you very
much Karina that’s fantastic I think this service is amazing and it’s a great
support for vulnerable people in our criminal justice system
so we’ll say goodbye for now and you’ve got all the contact details and watch
out for that email that comes after we close the the webinar that you can
follow up some of the context and resources that we spoke about today
okay bye-bye bye thanks Kerry

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