This research brief discusses training conducted by Asset South Australia on its unique program for providing ‘supported decision-making’. Asset’s model has developed from an initial trial program developed by Cher Nicholson in partnership with the South Australian Office of the Public Advocate. The model was further developed in partnership with the South Australian Health Services Complaints Commission (‘HSCC’). Asset South Australia has further developed the practice model since the conclusion of the program under the HSCC Supported Decision-Making Project. The HSCC described the program in March 2013 in the following terms:
The model is centered on a person with a disability, the ‘decision maker’, and one or more supporters. The decision makers are people with complex needs including physical and intellectual disabilities, with some being non-verbal. Some live in institutional settings and/or are dependent on disability services for most of their needs.
The supporters are preferably drawn from the decision makers natural networks, are of their choosing and are not paid workers. The decision maker supported by their supporter makes an agreement/commitment about what decisions they want to make and how support will be delivered. Informal and formal networks are co-opted to form a team around the decision maker to aid with the decisions and to help enact [his/her] wishes. The aim of the team is to connect and mainstream the decision maker outside of disability services. Their progression is then not dependent on finances or service provision.
The model works with what is possible rather than what is available in disability services. It aids in maintaining and renewing the social relationships of the decision maker. The model focuses on current and future opportunities for the decision maker, [his/her] wishes and dreams rather than [his/her] experiences, or the limitations of organizations that work with them. Cher’s role in the project is to train, mentor and coach disability service workers to run the SDM processes.
Initially, there were eight key disability service providers taking part in the training and coaching/mentoring program. They included a mix of government and non-government services, a local council and two overseas participants. Under the training for the purposes of this audit, two main bodies were involved – one non-government organization (Cara) and one government agency (Strathmont).