Below is the letter dated 12th May 2020, from the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) to the Attorney General of New South Wales, The Hon. Mark Speakman SC, MP.
12 May 2020
The Hon. Mark Speakman SC, MP
Attorney General of New South Wales
Dear Attorney General Speakman,
I write to seek your urgent action to maintain the funding of the Cognitive Impairment Diversion Program (CIDP) which is currently due to stop on June 30th June 2020.
The Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) is the national peak cross-disability organisation in the sector, representing people with lived experience of disability. AFDO and its member organisations are run by and for people with lived experience of disability.
Our eighteen member organisations with a combined reach of over 2.8 million Australians identified over two years ago, disability justice as a key policy area for our focus and have recently re-committed to that priority. AFDO is aware that people with disability, particularly psycho-social impairments and cognitive impairments are overrepresented in all aspects of the criminal justice system. We are also well aware that Indigenous Australians with disability are over-represented with making up to thirty per cent or more, of any incarcerated population.
A range of recent reports outline the significant systemic and individual vulnerabilities facing people with disability generally and people with cognitive impairments specifically who are involved in the criminal justice system including:
- The Australian Human Rights Commission 2014 Report: Access to Justice in the Criminal Justice System for People with Disability
- University of New South Wales Professor Eileen Baldry 2015 Report: A Predictable and Preventable Path
- Human Rights Watch 2018 Report: I Needed Help Instead I Was Punished – Abuse and Neglect of People with Disabilities in Australia
- Disability Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability 2019
In the context of strong research into the negative impacts for people with cognitive impairments who are at risk of detention, the Cognitive Impairment Diversion Program at the Intellectual Disability Rights Service, is a leading light that shines into a very dark space.
The CIDP is unique and vital in preventing people with cognitive impairments from being detained in prisons and other places of detention, being the only one of its kind in Australia.
Not only does it offer the person with a cognitive impairment a trusting relationship at a time of significant vulnerability, the CIDP also provides a link for people with cognitive impairments during their court hearings to the range of supports that are available in the community which enable appropriate diversion of people with disability away from the criminal justice system to occur.
The CIDP plays a key role is assisting the state to reduce recidivism and reduces domestic violence reoffending. It has a range of outcomes for a significantly disadvantaged group of people who are complex and often live on the fringes of society, are vulnerable to poverty, alcohol and substance abuse, social isolation and violence. The links to disability supports that occur through the intervention of the CIDP during the court process will strengthen individual’s links with the community, improve their self-esteem and assist in developing vocational skills that can lead to employment and result in them being able to live “an ordinary life”.
AFDO strongly recommends the continued funding of the Cognitive Impairment Diversion Program at the Intellectual Disability Rights Service as an essential program to protect some of the most vulnerable in our community.
Chief Executive Officer