Alana Doyle is the Social Media Specialist for Melba Support Services. She has worked in the Deaf and wider disability sector for the past five years in communications and digital content roles. As a person with lived experience of disability, she’s incredibly passionate about information access, resources, and empowered decision making.
Human rights is a really important concept. We all deserve to be treated fairly, equally and with respect, but as customers accessing disability services, it is critical to understand what your rights are as a service user, what you can expect from the people you choose to work with, and what options you have if you feel your rights have been breached. Here are some examples of what good human rights approaches look like in practice, and what you can rightfully expect from a provider you are purchasing services from.
Your autonomy is respected
Your services and supports need to be recognising and respecting your autonomy (independence). When dealing with services, you should be spoken to as an individual and communicated with directly about your needs and goals. It also means that your ability to make choices isn’t impacted by your supports – when you make a choice it is accepted and you’re then supported to do what you want to do.
You can give feedback and make complaints – and you are listened to when you do
If you feel something isn’t right, you have every right to raise concerns or to give feedback (you can also give good feedback, and it’s great when you do!). Whoever you choose as a provider should give you information on raising a concern or giving feedback, and what the process toward resolution will look like. If you do raise a concern, you should be updated on what is happening during the process.
Additionally, a good provider should be seeking your feedback on how things are going and taking that on board along the way. You might see positive changes that come from your feedback.
You are provided with information that works for you
When accessing services, you will usually be provided with information about the service or supports being delivered. It’s important that you are given information in a way that supports you to understand it, and takes into account the best way for you to learn and communicate. If you request information, it’s provided to you within a reasonable timeframe.
And most of all… you feel safe
The number one important thing is that you feel safe. You should feel safe when you are accessing services and working with support workers, and if you need to raise a concern or complaint, you should continue to feel safe while doing that too without fear of retaliation.
When you feel your human rights aren’t being respected
If something has happened that you think just isn’t right, you have every right to raise it with somebody. It’s important to remember a complaint is any level of dissatisfaction, and you don’t have to be a certain level of dissatisfied to complain. It’s always OK to raise something you aren’t comfortable with.
Understand what your rights are
Your rights are no different to anyone else’s. The Human Rights Victoria website shows the key principles of human rights grouped into FRED: Freedom, Respect, Equality and Dignity. While it isn’t specific to people with disability, it’s still a really great reference point because we all share the same fundamental rights.
Contact your provider
If you can, raising the issue with your provider first is a great idea. This might mean speaking to a support worker or manager, or filling in a feedback or complaints form.
If you are uncomfortable speaking directly to your provider, some providers pay for independent disclosure platforms you can use instead of submitting your issue directly to the provider. This means that you can send the issue to an independent person who will look at what you have said, then raise it with the organisation for you. However, not all providers use these, so you may not have the option to do so.
Once you have raised an issue with a provider, there should be a resolution process and a timeframe given. You should be kept informed of what is going on during this process.
If you can’t contact your provider or you are not happy with the way your provider has responded to you:
Take it further
You should always feel that it is OK to raise issues further if you haven’t had a good response from your provider. The Clickability guide on Making disability related complaints in Victoria is a great reference for making a complaint and where to go to raise an issue.
Accessing further support to make a complaint
If you feel you need support to make a complaint or need advice on your situation, there are plenty of advocacy organisations you can reach out to or access resources from, including Disability Advocacy Resource Unit, VALID, or the Office of the Public Advocate. You can use the Find an Advocate tool on the Disability Advocacy Resource Unit website to find someone who might be able to support you in raising an issue.
You don’t have to stay with a provider you don’t feel comfortable with
If you’re not happy with how things are going using one service, you can find another option. The NDIS means that there are many more providers working across Australia to provide supports to people with disability. As a customer or purchaser of services, you can rightfully choose to take your business elsewhere and find services that work for you.
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