Access to justice for people with mental illness and disability

Access to justice for people with mental illness and disability

People with mental illness and disability are over-represented in the justice system. The 2012 Legal Australia-Wide survey found that people with a mental illness or disability were more than twice as likely to experience legal problems. They are also more likely to experience multiple legal problems and have difficulty resolving them.

The justice system can be a particularly challenging place for people with disability and mental illness. We support more appropriate and effective responses for people in these circumstances, such as greater access to support, rehabilitation and tailored interventions.

We have significant experience helping people with disability or mental illness and use this expertise to advocate for reforms to prevent, and more effectively resolve, the legal problems of this priority client group.

Justice and law reform activities

Submission to the inquiry into transitional arrangements for the NDIS and into general issues around the implementation and performance of the NDIS

As Victoria transitions into the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), our lawyers are increasingly dealing with cases where disability services agencies are failing to provide services to our clients. These clients have complex intellectual disabilities and failure to provide services to them is having harmful consequences, such as imprisonment for months or even years. To highlight this concerning issue, we made a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme in November 2017. The committee is currently examining the operation of the scheme, rather than just the launch and transition phase.

Read the Submission to the inquiry into transitional arrangements for the NDIS and into general issues around the implementation and performance of the NDIS (docx, 180.7 KB).

Submission to the Productivity Commission on National Disability Insurance Scheme costs

Our submission to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) costs focuses on ‘reasonable and necessary supports’ and the Commission’s finding that not all participants are benefiting from the scheme, particularlu participants with psychosocial disabilities. Our submission draws on our recent experience in the case of McGarrigle v National Disability Insurance Agency [2017] FCA 308 where the court ruled that laws governing the NDIS do not allow the government to only partially fund supports that are found to be ‘reasonable and necessary’ for a person’s independence and meaningful social and economic participation.

Read Submission to the Productivity Commission on National Disability Insurance Scheme costs (docx, 100.22 KB).

Submission to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Article 13 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

As a legal aid programme with specialist services to improve access to justice for persons with disabilities, our submission provides valuable stakeholder perspective and illustrative data to the study on Article 13 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Read Submission to OHCHR on Article 13 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (docx, 201.9 KB).

Submission to the Equality, Capacity and Disability in Commonwealth Laws Issues Paper

Our submission responds to questions posed in the issues paper that relate to priority areas of concern for Victoria Legal Aid. These relate to the recognition of legal capacity, improvements to our disability discrimination regime and eligibility requirements for the Disability Support Pension. We also highlight priority issues relating to accessibility of legal services and remedies.

Read Submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s issues paper (doc, 352.5 KB).

Review of the Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to be Tried) Act

Our recent submission to the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s review of the Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to be Tried) Act 1997 calls for legislative change to further support people with a mental illness, intellectual disability or cognitive impairment when they are involved with the justice system.

Our submission covered issues including improving the process for determining fitness to stand trial, extending the operation of the Act to the Magistrates’ Court and improving the process for the review, leave and management of people subject to supervision.

Read: Submission to the review of the Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to be Tried) Act 1997 (doc, 689.5 KB).

Supporting the establishment of a National Disability Insurance Scheme

In this submission we indicated our general support for the establishment of a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) but made some recommendations for improvement. For example, we recommended meaningful access to review of decisions by ensuring legal assistance was adequately funded. We are members of the Every Australian Counts campaign, which supports the introduction of an NDIS.

Read Submission on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012 (Commonwealth Senate Community Affairs Committee) (doc, 375 KB).

Access to justice by people with an intellectual disability

In our submission to a Victorian Parliamentary Law Reform inquiry, we recommended a number of strategies to enhance access to justice for people with disabilities and their families and carers. We particularly highlighted the benefit of early intervention and tailored initiatives.

Read Submission to the inquiry into access to and interaction with the justice system by people with an intellectual disability and their families and carers (doc, 348.5 KB).

Guardianship

We supported the comprehensive review of the existing guardianship framework. This submission makes a number of recommendations on how the existing legislation relating to guardianship can be consolidated, updated and simplified.

Read Submission on Guardianship Consultation paper (Victorian Law Reform Commission) (doc, 468.5 KB)