Update on sector projects:

This was the final session of the Advocacy Sector Conversations forum held at the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre on 11 February 2020.


DARU recently received funds from the Office for Disability to manage two sector projects. The first is a feasibility study to investigate a central intake/referral process for Disability Advocacy Organisations in Victoria, and the second is a research project to measure the impact of the NDIS on Disability Advocacy Organisations. Melissa Hale, Coordinator at DARU, outlines the project scope, outcomes and methodology for each project and encourages advocacy organisations to engage to ensure that the sector gets the best results possible out of the projects.



Transcript & Audio


So DARU has been asked to coordinate two short projects this year and both projects are dependent on the import of the whole disability advocacy sector to be successful.  I thought I would take the opportunity today to explain what we are doing and why and to give you the opportunity to ask some questions.

The first of the projects is the feasibility Study into a Central Intake Referral Process for disability advocacy organisations.  Now, as you know DARUs core business is to create and disseminate resources that support a strong and thriving disability advocacy sector.

DARU disseminates relevant and up to date information through a multi-channel platform that includes websites, e-news, social media.  We convene forums like this around the state and there is a coordinated approach on issues of concern.  We provide professional development opportunities and training and do capacity-building projects on behalf of the sector like this one.

As a dedicated disability advocacy resource unit, we also receive a large number of calls from people with disability their families and carers who are seeking an advocate to help them with specific issues.

This function has evolved by default rather than design, filling a gap for the sector but is not the intended role of DARU.  There’s currently no way of determining the demand for advocacy and no formal arrangement for the sector to refer clients between agencies.

The Office for Disability approached DARU to undertake a feasibility study into a central intake point for disability advocacy.  During the consultation process to develop the Victorian Disability Advocacy Futures Plan the Department received feedback about the current intake process for the disability advocacy organisations who do individual advocacy.

The current intake process was described as having long waiting lists, operating without standard models of intake, lacking system for appropriate referrals, lacking clear timelines or criteria for access, functioning without clear guidelines for utilising self-advocacy.

This project will support the delivery of two actions from the plan.  Commissioning research to help develop a simpler, a more transparent intake process for people with disabilities and their families from 2021.  Working with partner organisations to provide a more consistent and streamlined intake process for advocates.

This project will support the delivery of these actions by providing tools and resources for advocates and other relevant stakeholders to support a simpler more transparent intake process, providing recommendations and options for best practice intake process for the Victorian Disability Advocacy Program based on good practice and consultation with key stakeholders.

How are we going to do this?  DARU feels it’s really important that we remain impartial from any solution that the sector wants.  Anything that sectors wants needs to be actually driven by the sector so DARU will oversee the coordination of the project to make sure all the things happen.  VCOSS will do the desktop research and writing for it because there is the skill set at VCOSS for that and a tiny budget.

We will engage an independent consultant who will come and work with all of you to talk to you about what the reality is for you and what you think will work and work out a good way forward after mapping out what the reality is.

I think the goal is we all want the same thing we all want a better system for people with disability to be able to get advocacy quicker and in an easier way.  We all want shorter waiting lists.  How we do it, we just all have to sort of try and work out and agree on an easier way forward.

Just watch out for that person that’s going to come around knocking on your doors and I hope you’re all engaged in the process and see what comes out of it.

The second project, this is an exciting one, the impact of the NDIS on disability advocacy organisations.  DARU has been providing feedback to the Office for Disability that disability advocacy sector is unable to absorb the increased demand being generated by the NDIS.

People are being turned away from services or put on waiting lists and other core areas of advocacy work are not being sufficiently resourced because of the demand for assistance with the NDIS access and appeals.  There’s also been a significant impact on DARU with the increased calls from people wanting advocacy assistance and nowhere to send them.

The Office for Disability have also said that the Victorian Disability Advocacy Agencies are constantly reporting an unprecedented increase in the demand for advocacy.  This has in part been attributed to the implementation of the NDIS, an additional investment in the sector by IOS funding.

Advocacy agencies are being impacted in multiple ways including an increase demand in individual advocacy resulting in expanding waiting lists and the closure of services.

Advocacy agencies are reporting taking on roles and functions that would traditionally be attributed to services and case managers, which no longer exist.  Substantial organisational growth is also affecting all advocacy organisations who have attracted funding for time-limited projects through ILC and transition support packages.

Therefore, the Office has asked VCOSS, DARU, SARU and the Future Social Services Institute to do this project, which measures and looks at the real impact NDIS is having on the disability advocacy organisations and it will do two things.

It will provide the Office for Disability with an independent evaluation of the impact NDIS is having on disability advocacy organisations and provide recommendation to the Victorian Government, Commonwealth Government and the NDIA on what’s needed to address the issues.

Funded development of resources to help alleviate pressure on the sector, resource development will be undertaken by DARU and SARU and informed by the resource recommendations.

We have a project advisory group to help guide the project however, the research will be predominately done by the Future Social Services Institute.  Paul Ramcharan is the project lead and sends his apologies today.

They will come up with the recommendation for resources, which will be taken on, by SARU and DARU towards the end of the project as well as recommendation for Government sector as well as the NDIA.

The research team at the Future Social Services Institute plan to do a big analysis of the data, both the Victorian Disability Advocacy Program and the National Disability Advocacy Programs, plus the IOC programs to measure the impact that the NDIS is having on the organisations.

They will do a survey which I hope you all respond to because the more that we engage with this the stronger the case we will have.  They also plan to interview all of you, collect and create some case studies and run some focus groups.

This is a really important project for our sector so that we can produce the evidence that proves what we already know and come up with solutions and recommendations for this.  The project is due for completion by September 2020.

Does anyone have any questions about either of those projects?

Hi Melissa, just looking at the project advisory group was there any thought or I don’t even know how you do it, into getting a representative on that group from a disability advocacy organisation?

The project advisory group – advisory probably is just a bad word for it.  It was more like a project guidance group.  It’s more like a person from each of the organisations in the project just guiding the thing along.  There will be other groups with disability advocacy organisations in it but really that group just organising the project stuff at the moment.

I’m just wondering how we can embed some LGBTIQ stuff across both of the projects so at the intake ones, best practice stuff to do with LGBTIQ intake and also with this looking at LGBTIQ people with disabilities experiences of trying to access advocacy and the NDIS.

I know that Thorn Hub Health have currently got a three year IOC grant that looks at self-advocacy for LGBTIQ people with disabilities, happen to surprisingly be on their co-design group.

One of the things that we looked at at the session last week was the NDIS and barriers to the NDIS and getting advocacy in that space.  Just wondering if there’s a space where you talk to some of those people and capture that as well.

I know that the project group, the researchers working on the NDIS project will be looking at all the projects being done around that space as well to find those intersection groups.

How this project will improve access to NDIS performance?

The project is more around – well there’s two different ones.  The first one is more around how people can access disability advocacy services quicker and easier.  The second project is more around looking at how the NDIS has put more pressure on disability advocacy agencies.  It doesn’t look directly at how to improve NDIS services.  It’s more around how to improve getting quicker access to disability advocacy agencies.

If anyone has any questions they want to talk to me about later or think about later, you all know where to find me.  I’m happy to talk to you one on one later, or you can email me.  It’s really important that you all come along on this journey with us.  To make it work we need you.

I think I’ll let you go home now.  Thank you everyone for coming today.  Thank you to all the presenters.  Thank you to Expression Australia for operating the live stream and Michael for all our audio needs.  Thank you to the amazing Auslan interpreters and safe travel home.


Download slide presentation

Date published:
Tue 11th Feb, 2020