Disability Advocacy by the Numbers 2012-16 Report & DARU Strategic Planning workshop

This was the first session at the Advocacy sector Conversations forum held at the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre on 28 November 2017.

Other sessions at this forum included:


 

Overview

DARU has published the Disability Advocacy by the Numbers report which interprets the data collected by disability advocacy organisations funded through the Victorian Office for Disability.  Llewellyn Reynders, Policy Manager at VCOSS gave a summary  of how some of the advocacy issues are trending and then followed up with a consultation on future resourcing for DARU to feed into the next strategic planning process for 2018-21.

 

 

References mentioned in  this session:

 

Transcript

 

MELISSA HALE, DARU CO-ORDINATOR:
Good Morning everyone if you could please take your seats.  Welcome to the last advocacy conversation for 2017.  My name is Melissa Hale and I’m the coordinator of the Disability Advocacy Resource Unit.  Our forum today is being held on the traditional land of the Kulin Nation and I wish to acknowledge them as traditional owners.  I would also like to pay my respect to their elders past and present and the elders from other communities that may be here today.

I’d also like to welcome those who have joined us online.  Just a reminder those watching online please feel free to text message your questions for our presenters today.  The number is on the screen and I will ask the question on your behalf.

Today’s agenda, you will see the packs on the table, please make sure you grab one.  We have a small discussion about our Disability Advocacy by the Numbers Report and then we will go straight into the strategic planning for DARU because we’re really keen to hear what your ideas might be for 2018 to 2021.

After lunch, we will have the launch of the cost benefit analysis of disability advocacy with Mary Mallett from DANA.  After afternoon tea, we will have self-advocacy resource unit project and then as usual an Office for Disability update.  We’ve got a big day today.

In your packs, you will have your agenda.  The next page has a flyer on human rights week, which is next week.  If you want to have a look at what activities are on next week go to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission website.  Then you have a summary of the cost benefit analysis report and the easy English version.  We also have a worksheet that is on your tables as well, which is a part of this strategic planning workshop that we will have very soon.

DARU has worked with the Office for Disability to produce the Disability Advocacy by the Numbers report.  If you haven’t got a copy there is copies at the registration desk so please help yourself.  I would like to invite Llewellyn Reynders, the policy officer of Victorian Council of Social Service to come and speak to the report and to lead the strategic planning session.  Welcome Llewellyn.

LLEWELLYN REYNDERS, VICTORIAN COUNCIL OF SOCIAL SERVICES:
Thank you so much Melissa, can I just grab those documents.  Good Morning everyone.  My name is Llewellyn Reynders I’m the policy manager at the Victorian Council of Social Service and also have the pleasure of working with Melissa and Natasha to help from VCOSSs end to deliver the disability advocacy resource unit.  I’ve got about 50 minutes with you and I want to talk through two kinds of pieces of work that we’ve done and are doing.

The first is our Disability Advocacy by the Numbers Report.  Many of you may have been here at the May session where I gave you a bit of a sneak preview about what was being found in that report.  We’ve now had the chance to publish it and we can now give you kind of the final data and the findings of that report.

The data for this report is provided by you.  All the organisations that reports data to the Office for Disability through the Victorian Disability Advocacy Program, all that data has been collated, de-identified and given to DARU to put together into this report.  So we’ve done some of the analysis and laid out the report so you can see the outcome of the data that you’re providing.

In addition to giving you the data so that you can see what’s happening in the disability advocacy sector in Victoria, we’ve also done a supplementary report to dig into some of the issues about the data’s quality, about what the data is telling us and how we might think about making that data better in the future.

We also include in the report some case studies that you have provided that again is de-identified so it’s not – we don’t identify the people in the case studies or the organisations that are working with those people.  But it does give some insight into the kind of issues and the kind of work that disability advocacy organisations are doing.

To really talk to the headline findings of that data report, we see that with the Victorian Government disability advocacy funding about 800 people are receiving services in a three-month period in Victoria.  Many of those people will be working with over a number of months so they may appear in different three-month periods but about half of those people in a three-month period in new clients.  So around 400 new clients are being provided services in Victoria funded by the Victorian Government.

There are slightly more men and boys than women and girls and that’s an interesting finding that over the four year period covered by this data we find that in all but one reporting period organisations reported working with more men than they did with women.  Those numbers are only slight but given that women make up a slight majority of the population as well as given the age cohort of people with disability, we do find it interesting that men are receiving more services than women from the data that we’ve collected.

We have seen a trend over the last four years of more and more young people receiving disability advocacy services, that’s quite a sharp increase in the numbers of young people accessing disability advocacy services.  And we also see that from the data that’s been reported around 4% of people receiving services are from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background.  Given about 1% of Victorian’s are from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background, that is quite a good representation and around 10% reported as being from a culturally or linguistically diverse background.

Yes?

QUESTION FROM THE FLOOR [to far from mic to hear]

LLEWELLYN REYNDERS:
If you look at Page 11 of the report, we see the biggest kind of change is that yellow line which is 15 to 25 year olds.  So particularly in that kind of end of high school early adulthood group we are seeing quite a large increase particularly in the last year of that cohort accessing services, which we do find quite interesting.

Moving on, the most popular topics and I think I showed you a draft of this diagram last time, are disability services in education.  Quite clearly those both together make up over 40% of the people accessing services followed by accommodation legal and health.  It’s interesting to compare that that’s actually quite a different – there is similarities but it’s actually quite a different spread to the data that we’re getting from the National Disability Advocacy Program.  Particularly the prominence of education issues in Victoria is much higher than we’re seeing in the nationally funded program.  I find that quite interesting.  I think in part of the handouts there’s a similar diagram to this showing the spread of federally funded services on a national basis.

Other big topics are accommodation legal and health.  Those groupings have been stable for a number of years so we’re not seeing a lot of change.  And I think for some time those five issues have made up the vast majority about 2/3rds. of the issues that people receiving services are facing.

In particular, we’ve identified two issues as there being a clear trend of increasing.  The first is disability services and the NDIS, which is unsurprising given the roll out of the NDIS as it, rolls out across the state.  So we’ve seen a clear trend in those issues increasing.  The other one is legal issues that we’ve seen a reasonably clear trend over the last four years of increasing recourse to disability advocacy services for legal issues.

You’ll see in the report we’ve actually provided the individual data for each advocacy issue to look at how that plays out over time.  So for example, this is the data we’ve been provided with on accommodation issues.  We’ve said that this is broadly stable over the four years but we have seen an interesting uptick just in that final quarter which was the June quarter of last year.  So we will need to see this year’s sort of data to see whether that trend is increasing but certainly over the four years of the data that we’ve got there’s a broadly stable trend in accommodation issues.  We have that set of data, you can look through the report and kind of see any trends in the data over a four year period.

I’ve mentioned the interesting kind of gender split in the data.  The other thing that’s interesting to point out that when we compare with the Australian Bureau of Statistics data about the age of people with disability, those blue columns there, we actually find that about 40% of people who say that they have a severe or profound impairment or a disability of some kind are over the age of 65.  But we see very few people over the age of 65 approaching disability advocacy services.  We can’t tell from the data why that is.  We suggested that perhaps they are seeking other types of advocacy such as aged care advocacy for example but it is interesting that whereas every other age group is over represented compared to their proportions in the population that older people who do have disabilities appear not to be approaching disability advocacy services.

Just before I get into some of the data issues because I’m a bit of a nerd I actually find them really interesting, but are there any questions just about the detail of some of the data that’s come out?

QUESTION:-
Sorry if a person presents with a whole range of complex problems have you included them in the main area that they’ve come for advocacy services about or – so if they’ve got an accommodation issue, they’ve got an education issue they’ve got a health issue how have you managed those within the data?

LLEWELLYN REYNDERS:
So we have gone off what organisations reported.  So the only data we have is what organisations put on their QDC form.  That comes to some of the data issues that we have is that we don’t have a clear way of saying how did you classify people.  That’s a clear example that where a person presents with multiple issues some agencies might pick the main issue, other agencies might pick multiple issues and report the same person against multiple different topics.  It’s unclear from the data and we can’t tell because we haven’t kind of had the conversation amongst ourselves about how do we manage those complexities in the data.  The reality is I really can’t answer that question and we don’t have a measure of complexity of need that we’re able to report.

Any other questions?

QUESTION:-
I guess I just wanted to point out that the reason that there is probably not much going on in the 65 plus range is because mostly we’re not funded to work with people over 65.  So they might contact us in which case we would say we can’t work with you go here, here and here.  But we wouldn’t necessarily record their contact and the referrals that we’ve made.

LLEWELLYN REYNDERS:
Any other questions or queries?

[no further questions asked]

I do want to move on then very quickly to looking at some of the data issues.  We’re going to start a process we’re in some conversations with the Office of Disability at the moment about the best way to proceed with that.  But we do want to start a process and open up a broader conversation, which we will come back to you about how we might improve the data collection process or even look at other ways of synthesising and recording information about disability advocacy in the future.  Because the reality is as much as we’ve kind of done, our best with the data that we’ve got it’s only telling us part of the story and also it’s very variable in the quality of data that we’re receiving.

We’re really interested and I believe the Office for Disability is as well in having a conversation about how we can improve that process, how we can potentially improve and change the QDC form but also look at other avenues for recording information so that we get a better idea of what’s going on in the disability advocacy sector.  What people are approaching the sector about, what the issues people are raising are as well as the effectiveness of the advocacy sector in resolving those issues.

We’ve kind of gone through and you can read the report itself and kind of identified what are the data quality issues but more generally why are we collecting this data.  There’s a certain number of pieces of information that are required by various Government departments and agencies to tick off the money that has been spent but there’s an awful lot of other things that we’re collecting data about and it’s often unclear why we’re collecting or what we’re trying to achieve by collecting that data.

Part of the conversation we want to have with you is what do we think is important for us to know about disability advocacy so that we can design ways of collecting information that actually give us that answer.  What we see is that actually we’re only able to report in this document only about a third of the data items that are in the QDC report for a variety of different reasons.  So there’s a lot of extra data that you’ve been providing that’s either because of quality issues or because of other sensitivities we’re not even able to report back and I guess there’s a question about are those useful or not.

Then secondly just even bedding down some of the actual questions that are asked, and we’ve put the full list of questions that are asked in the back of this report, whether they’re the most useful.  We are very aware that the QDC is a really intensive data collection process.  We identified around 200 different pieces of information that organisations are asked to provide through that data collection process and they need to do that every three months.

That’s a very intensive data collection ask for what are often quite small amounts of funding.  We do think there’s probably the opportunity to streamline that actually make some of that data collection simpler and easier to take some of the red tape burden off the sector as well as actually collect clearer pieces of information that isn’t duplicating across the data collection process.

The other thing we observe is because somewhat unusually organisations are asked to report on whomever they’re working with at the time regardless of whether they’ve reported the details of that person previously.  So what we see is there is a lot of duplication in reporting.  Organisations are asked to report the same information about the same people over and over again because they had to work with that person for two years and have therefore provided that information eight times over over eight different data collection cycles.  We think there’s a lot of unnecessary reporting burden in the process that can actually be streamlined and make it simpler and easier for organisations to report.

The other thing we’re quite aware is that in the data we received there’s actually a lot of missing information.  For example, nearly half of the information about gender was not reported in the data we received.  Nearly half the information about the age group of people receiving services was not reported in the data collection process.  So we also want to have a conversation to understand why that data isn’t being reported and what can be done to make that easier.

I’m aware that we have limited time but I’m actually interested if people have any first thoughts.  Obviously, we will have other opportunities in the future to discuss some of the detail of this, but do people have initial thoughts or comments about any of that?

(no questions asked)

What we will do in the future is come back to you and talk about a number of these questions but actually getting a handle on what information we want to know.  Where the data comes from like do organisations all have computerised systems that they’re just pulling the data out of or are there other ways that people are generating this data.  Whether what information should be made public and reported back to the sector through this process.  How we write the right questions to ask because certainly we think some of the questions asked are a bit unclear in what they’re actually asking organisations to provide and particularly around some other types of advocacy.

The QDC is very focused on individual advocacy and that is mostly what the data that we are able to present is but how do we collect information about systemic group and self-advocacy activities.  We really don’t have a good handle on information around that so we’re interested in having conversations about well how do we collect that information, how do we present what those organisations are doing in a meaningful way that actually explains what’s happening.

Then particularly getting an understanding of how do we measure demand in the sector, what is the demand for disability advocacy and how can we report that.  And also, what is the outcomes of disability advocacy.  They’re quite difficult and complicated questions but we think it’s worth having a conversation about how we can get better at looking at what is the product of disability advocacy rather than just information about who is accessing it.

Okay, just to finish that conversation off part of the reason that we want to engage in this process is there’s a particularly opportune time at the moment.  Firstly, we’ve had a recent review of the Victorian Disability Advocacy Program and there is the opportunity I guess to act on some of the outcomes of that review.

Also that the Victorian Government has actually made a number of promises around improving issues to do with the program so particularly the measurement of demand and outcomes, building stronger links with other safeguarding mechanisms and simplifying the administrative requirements and organisations.  There are commitments from the Minister, from the Victorian Government to actually improve these issues within the Disability Advocacy Program so this is an opportunity for us really to beat in and have some influence on how those recommendations are implemented.

I’m going to move on and just talk to you a bit more about DARU.  We’re very aware as you all would be that we’re all coming to the end of our three-year funding cycle and in anticipation, obviously none of us have actually had our funding confirmed for beyond the 30th of June.  But in anticipation that DARU will continue on beyond that date we’re starting our strategic planning process.

I really want to have a bit of a chat to you about what we might do in the future, what you think is good and bad about DARU.  What is valuable about DARU what isn’t and what we can do better and where you would like us to go in our future directions to help support you in doing your work.

Just to start at the end, on your tables you will see a bit of a handout with these five questions on it.  It’s a bit of an old school swat analysis but we did want to kind of maximise your chances to have some input.

 

Strengths: What does DARU do well? what do you want to see DARU continue
Weaknesses: What does DARU not do enough of? What doesn’t DARU do well?
Opportunities: What opportunities for resourcing the work of advocacy do you see DARU could have a role in?
Threats: What are some of the risks that DARU needs to watch out for in 2018-2021
Trends: What is going on in the sector that DARU should be aware of and plan for?

 

So if you did want to while I’m talking and while we’re having a bit of a chat jot down any thoughts that you had on anything that you would like to comment about the work of DARU or where we should be looking at trending in the future please do so.  And we can collect those up at the end of the session and incorporate that information as well.

Okay, more generally the vision of DARU or at least the vision that we adopted as part of our last strategic plan was that DARU wants a society where people with disability are fully included, their inherent dignity and worth is recognised and where their human rights are respected and upheld.  Now our mission to achieve that vision is to resource the work of disability advocacy in Victoria through targeted and responsive information provision, training and network supports.

We very much see ourselves and we are very much funded to be a support organisation to be someone who doesn’t advocate on behalf of the sector but in fact supports the sector to advocate.  We’re really interested in whether you think we’re being effective at supporting you, whether the information that we provide the training and the networking opportunities we provide are effective and whether there’s other things that you think would be useful for DARU to be engaging in that would make your lives and your jobs and your organisations easier.

So a recap of our last strategic plan which I believe is available on our website, we identified four basic areas of work where we would concentrate our efforts.  So firstly, in supporting disability advocacy and particularly about preparing disability advocates in an NDIS environment and supporting collaboration for systemic change.

We’ve undertaken a number of projects over the last three years that have actually sought to provide information and advice on the NDIS.  As well as bringing advocates together where there was systemic opportunities to be able to share information, discuss the issues and at times feed into a joint or a joint peak body submission particularly around issues on disability advocacy and disability advocacy funding.

Capacity building, we deliver training.  Many of you generously take that training up as well as convening these types of forums.  And also developing materials to assist advocates with their work.

The third is providing an information gateway.  Probably the feedback I’ve heard over a number of years is that our regular weekly update is highly valid for the sector.  Being able to bring together all the things that have happened over the last week, the opportunities, the media, the jobs, all the kind of nuts and bolts of what’s going on who is where and what’s happening and what opportunities are available is highly valued.  And also, our website, which has undergone a considerable revamp over the last year and is hopefully much easier for you to find information that you need.

Finally pulling together forums like this, pulling together our conference and supporting networks of disability advocates to come together and talk about their work and to share and develop linkages and networks to be able to work more cohesively as a sector.

Really, I want to use the last few minutes of the session to open it up to you and really to understand your perspectives of who we are and what you think is valuable about what we do.  What you think we can do better and where you would like to see both DARU and the sector more generally head in the next few years.

We’re very aware that at the moment we have quite a supportive Victorian Government whereas we see other State Governments defunding disability advocacy.  The Victorian Government has committed to maintain disability advocacy and indeed we have high hopes that they will increase disability advocacy funding in the future.

We think we have a strong foundation on which to build but we also are interested in hearing well where do you want us to go from that foundation, how would you like to see the sector change in the future and in particular what can DARU do to help facilitate that change.

Does anyone have any thoughts on kind of any of those issues, but particularly what you think is next for disability advocacy that we can help with?

QUESTION:-  [too far from mic]

LLEWELLYN REYNDERS:
I think it’s – do people have any thoughts, would people feel –

QUESTION:-
Office for Disability, Mark Fagan, Would you like us to leave – the office – from this session?

LLEWELLYN REYNDERS:
I’ve never known the Disability Office to be shy.  Let’s say that this is Chatham House rules and those from the Office for Disability who are here won’t go back and dob on you and write down that organisation X said nasty things.  Fantastic but I think there was a comment.

QUESTION:-
A question.  Just wondering do you actually report on the outcomes of the advocacy?  My question I guess is leading to given the other states as you’ve mentioned are not necessarily funding ongoing advocacy and given the importance of advocacy perhaps DARU could start monitoring it’s impact or the impact of the advocates and capturing that and reporting it.  Just a safety measure for the future.  Plus off course, it would be very informative to see what kind of impact advocates actually have in employment, accommodation, education and all the other matters that you raised.

LLEWELLYN REYNDERS:
Yeah, at the moment we don’t collect or rather the Office for Disability doesn’t collect data on impact or outcomes.  They are tricky to measure but that being said, yeah, I think it’s an important thing both through I guess our discussion about data but even more generally how do we document and kind of prove the value of disability advocacy.

I suspect Mary will have something to say about some of these issues after lunch and I think there’s a lot of work that DANA is doing that we can build on that direction.  But I think it’s a really good point and a good question because most of the kinds of impact information or outcome information at the moment is really quite anecdotal.

We have some great case studies and some great anecdotal evidence about here is what the intervention of a disability advocacy service was able to produce in a particular person’s trajectory but we don’t necessarily have great ways to scale that up.

QUESTION:-
I was going to add perhaps technology and advances in technology through apps and all sorts of things would actually help make it easier to capture that follow through data and centralise it so that you can have access to it.

LLEWELLYN REYNDERS:
Yes, I completely agree.

QUESTION:-
Thank you I hope you don’t want me to leave.  Colleen from VDAC I’ve just come today just to listen.  But I feel it’s really pertinent to – with any strategic planning process that that talks to other high-level plans.  So obviously, the state disability plan, if you can talk back to a Government saying this is what you said you were going to do and this is what we need to do it, it obviously gives you more grounding and more connection.

There are people that may not be as happy with other Government plans or whatever but that’s what the Government will make its decision on, that’s what the funding is connected to those plans.  So the more you can connect to that and talk back to that and certainly using similar language and saying well, the third pillar you said and the measures and outcomes are being worked on at the moment.  So I’d really encourage you to sort of consider that in the body of your document and then that will hopefully mean it does keep funding.

I think one thing to tell the Government as well here in Victoria that we do do it very well, love to hear that.  That’s always a great thing and give evidence of that.  Obviously you’re doing all those things but just on behalf of VDAC thanking the advocacy sector for what it does and we’re doing all we can to make sure that message is being heard wherever anyone will listen so thank you.

LLEWELLYN REYNDERS:
Fantastic thank you.  I think that’s an excellent suggestion and yeah, as part of our review process we will kind of look at developments in Victorian Government policy as well as nationally and kind of say do our own kind of I guess scenario planning and looking at what are the opportunities in the future.  But any thoughts on those we’re really interested in hearing.

QUESTION:-
Sorry I should have introduced myself before, I’m Melinda Jones.  I’m a consumer as much as anything else, I’m a retired human rights lawyer but I still work in the area.  One of my thoughts is that I don’t think the vast majority of people with disabilities or their carers have the slightest idea what is disability advocacy, if it exists and if it exists what it can do and what it can’t do.

Just following up on the point that was just made, it might be good to be looking at something with someone like Carers Australia or some of the consumer groups to maybe run forums through them to people who are potential users of services.  I think that’s one thing that would be an additional sort of thing.

The other thing going back to the question of outcomes.  One of the things again I’m interested in the question of people with complex needs.  So you’ve got one very serious problem you might think it’s worth going to someone so they can help you solve that problem.  It would be really interesting to know if the people who go to advocates are the people who are in crisis, or not in crisis.  Whether they’ve come because there’s a simple problem and they can sort of imagine that someone might have an answer for them compared to people who think the whole thing is too complicated I don’t know who to talk to about this and the idea of an advocate never ever comes across their mind as one of the possible options.

LLEWELLYN REYNDERS:
Yeah, I think that’s an excellent observation and certainly we often find that out in the broader world disability advocacy is not necessarily well understood.  It’s not necessarily something that if people are encountering parts of the community services sector that people even necessarily think to refer a person to a disability advocate or to work with a disability advocacy organisation to help resolve the persons problem.

The other thing, which is I guess common among a lot of underfunded and over stretched organisations, is that we don’t necessarily go out promote our services because we can’t deal with all the people walking in the door.  And why would we go and try and get more people to come in the door when we can’t deal with the people who are already there.

It’s a very interesting conundrum but I think it is sometimes only when people are more aware that a service is available that the shortage of the service and demand for the service becomes more obvious and there is more political will to be generated to actually do something about it.

QUESTION:-
So maybe DARU could take on some sort of research project that looked at the unmet need for advocacy or circumstances where advocacy could potentially make a difference and potentially a much cheaper alternative for example than going through courts.  Maybe that’s something that could be looked at by the sector.

QUESTION:-
Geoff Southall, Leadership Plus.  On the back of that point, collectively what we do is a bit like what an Ombudsman might do for this sector where we’re providing that service in terms of managing complaints and so forth.

As the NDIS rolls out and as there’s more pressure on service providers to become more concentrated as I’m sure they will there will be areas where there is pockets of real issues and pockets of real problems and problem organisations.

If you look at the sort of industry Ombudsman’s around energy and telecommunications one of their functions is to report what the complaint regime is like across each of those providers.  We don’t do that.  You have the capacity to capture this information as sort of a centralised broker of information.  Is there any vision for doing that and that would potentially help with the issue we were talking about before because the profile of the whole advocacy sector gets raised because we’re able to report on it.

LLEWELLYN REYNDERS:
I think yes, there’s part of that that we can do with the data that the Office for Disability collects.  I think there’s probably also, it’s an interesting idea about a conversation with the Disability Services Commissioner and ultimately the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Commission around the publication of their data as well.

QUESTION:-
I think given what history so far we couldn’t rely on the NDIA to be doing it right now.

LLEWELLYN REYNDERS:
Not the NDIA but the Quality and Safeguarding team which is yet to come into existence.  Certainly that’s proposed to be part of its role as well.

QUESTION:-
I mean we are collectively uniquely positioned to capture that information, there is no mechanism to do that right now.  We don’t report to any sector who the complaint was about other than NDIS other.  We don’t say x, y, z provider.  Someday we’re going to have to do that to provide that information.

LLEWELLYN REYNDERS:
Yes, excellent point.

QUESTION:-
I guess on a smaller level one of the things that would be helpful as an advocate is having some centralised resources that actually document what the rules, guidelines and legislation is in regards to specific issues.  I had a case a couple of years ago with a young woman with cerebral palsy who the hospital has imposed a not for resuscitation on her and it took me a year to unravel what the relevant legislation was, what the rules were, what the hospital ethics board had to say about it.  I made mistakes I wouldn’t have made had I known what the landscape looked like before that.

One of the things that would be helpful is having those resources on various topics actually at our fingertips.  What does the disability act say about your right to challenge a notice to vacate and to actually break that down and make it easier.  I think obviously advocates getting together we can unravel a fair amount of that – what do you know about this, what do you know about that.  But actually have a well-researched position on different advocacy issues would clear a lot of that up.

In fact what I found out in that case is Doctors can impose not for resuscitation orders, there is nothing you can do about it, it’s their choice not yours and no you don’t have any rights.  But it took me too long to figure that out before we could actually put a solution together in collaboration with the family and hospital to try and at least get some kind of agreement about what should happen.

Those kinds of cases, which are somewhat unusual, I guess, we have so many different topics that come across our desk. It’s like you’re relearning the facts every single time someone presents you with something new and it’s time consuming in a way that I don’t think it has to be.

LLEWELLYN REYNDERS:
It’s a really good point and you’re not the first to raise that issue.  Part of the difficulty in the past has been you kind of often don’t know what you need until you get there.  To develop a knowledge bank of every conceivable advocacy issue is a big big project  That being said I do wonder how we can better share our own expertise.  For example, if somebody else now had that situation that you’ve spent a year researching, you would be able to give them an awful lot more information rather than them having to read, learn all of that again.

I do wonder whether we can get better at kind of identifying key experts in particular issues across the disability advocacy sector, so that if you come across a particular issue you can have some reference point of is there anyone else who has come across this issue before and can I talk to them and actually understand what they learnt dealing with that issue.

QUESTION:-
Specifically to that point, amongst the NDIS Appeals Advocates we started just an online chat group to address that exact question because amongst the claims through the AAT there’s obviously precedence when it goes through to a formal appeal and it gets documented and you have a hearing.  But most of them get settled beforehand.  So we started an online session so people can compare notes.  It sounds like that’s exactly what we need so you can just search and say confusion of care or things like that on a particular topic.  We’re happy to invite you along, talk to me.

LLEWELLYN REYNDERS:
Fantastic, any other –

QUESTION:-
Again it’s Cathy Barakas here.  Further to that point, on my mentoring platforms are incredibly inexpensive and useful organisations like the accountants, consultants can actually use them.  I just identify their expertise and they’re really easy to use in the future.

The second point I wanted to raise in terms of complaints and how you can gain visibility about the impact that advocacy can have, I’m just imagining the stars rating system of the DES providers.  If we could have some input into those that are getting complaints that will perhaps give a fairer system, a more accurate picture of their work and their success.

LLEWELLYN REYNDERS:
Yes, it’s an excellent point and indeed one we have raised in the context of the Quality and Safe Planning Commission as well.  We certainly think the Commission should have a role in being able to publically kind of determine the quality and rate the quality of organisations and have that information publically available rather than leaving it to individuals to each individually investigate the quality and status of the service providers that they’re using.  I think it’s an excellent point.

QUESTION:-
Just further to the same thing, forgive me if I don’t know DARUs website well enough.  Could there just be a little section set up on that, questions of interest or something like that and just whenever you get a topic like that everything you’ve collected you just put up and send in and somebody – I mean if I can do this, collect all the relevant articles and have the references and just send it around to people so that they know, surely there would be someone.

You just send it to say DARU and they set up all the paperwork and relevant links under this questions of interest so you know if you have a question like that you go to the DARU questions of interest thing and look down the topics, okay non-resuscitation, notices to vacate and it will be there.  So if somebody does x, y and z they send it in and it gets tacked on.

LLEWELLYN REYNDERS:
We have started some initial thinking around how to do that so yeah, it is an excellent idea.  We will take it on board and kind of do some more thinking about how to do it in a – in the end DARU is one and a half people.  There’s –

QUESTION:-
I could set up a file or a folder.  If I could do this technically, there is a lot more people who are a lot more advanced than I am.  I could set up this file that file and that file and each file has links, other bits and pieces, if you want to go past what I did these are the links that are attached to this article.  You send the whole lot in together.

LLEWELLYN REYNDERS:
It is something we can investigate further and happy to talk to you more about that idea.

I’m aware we’re about at time, are there any last comments or questions?  We will leave the handouts with you over lunch and collect them after lunch.  If you do have any other thoughts even if it’s just about I tried to use the website and it didn’t work or I got information or there was information that I wanted and you’re not putting it in your newsletter or there’s particular training that we think would be really valuable for our organisation.  Any ideas you have for the work we might do in the future would be very valuable.

Thank you again for your time.  Thank you for supporting DARU by coming along and using the opportunities we provide.  I will hand over quickly to Melissa to wrap up before lunch.

MELISSA HALE:
Thank you very much Llewellyn and thank you all for your input.  Please fill in your ideas.  We want to make sure DARU is as relevant as possible and is helpful to your work particularly with lots of changes coming up and big workload coming forward with NDIS.

We will break for lunch at 12 which is now and you’ve got an hour so please be seated back at 1 o’clock.  Thank you.