The Advocacy service at Brain Injury SA continues to provide a voice for people living with an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) at times when they need help and support and may not be able to speak up for themselves.
As Advocates, we work collaboratively with clients, aiming to understand their concerns, assist them to gather and understand relevant information so that they can make informed decisions, support them to navigate complicated processes or systems, and negotiate a positive resolution to the presenting issue where possible. We also aim to develop positive relationships with external agencies and services to facilitate the achievement of successful outcomes and to create greater community integration by providing education on ABI and insight into the experiences of people living with ABI.
We aim to promote self-advocacy where possible by working in collaboration with our participants, enabling them to speak for themselves, where able to, and assisting clients to develop their capacity to self-advocate in future. Many people with ABI appreciate having an advocate attend important meetings, video conferences and phone calls to provide guidance, encouragement and moral support. Our role is to ensure the client’s voice is heard. We also continue to engage in a variety of projects related to systemic advocacy to promote positive social and systemic change which considers the adversities faced by people with ABI.
The demand on the Advocacy Service continues to remain consistently high, operating with a waiting list where referrals and enquiries are triaged. We aim to provide people with details of other agencies or information to guide them in the right direction if we cannot assist or do not have capacity.
We have continued to see several commonalities and trends in the types of issues which have impacted the lives of people we have supported through the advocacy service.
The housing sector continues to present with substantial barriers around accessibility and affordability, not only affecting the ABI community but extending to impact the wider population due in part to the ongoing impact COVID-19 has had on the housing sector. With the housing crisis affecting the entire population, people with ABI are faced with additional barriers and challenges to access and maintain housing. There continues to be a significant shortage of safe, affordable and accessible housing options in South Australia, which has attributed to limitations on what can be achieved by the Advocate. Through the Advocacy service, we can assist people to complete applications for public and community housing. However, even when we can advocate for a client to be placed in the most urgent category of public/community housing, the waiting times are still extremely lengthy, resulting in many people continuing to sleep rough, couch surf or remain in unsafe/inappropriate accommodation for prolonged periods. Accessing private rentals continues to be a substantial challenge due to the level of competition, meaning that people on a low income, lack of resources and little to no rental history continue to be disadvantaged.
Applying for a Disability Support Pension (DSP) is a complex process which many of our clients require assistance to navigate in order to complete the required forms, collate the required information and seek adequate supporting medical evidence. Many people experience frustration and stress in relation to their Centrelink payments and many find the impact of their ABI makes it difficult to maintain employment or meet mutual obligation requirements.
Assistance with completing NDIS Access Requests has appeared to be our most frequent service enquiry for Advocacy over the past year. We service a large proportion of people who have attempted to apply before but were unsuccessful as they did not have enough supporting evidence or do not know where to start with completing an application. The application process for NDIS seems to present with significant challenges, particularly for people who do not have a recent injury or a clear record of their treatment/diagnosis. This means that documentation and supporting evidence often needs to be sourced by completing Freedom of Information requests from hospitals and medical centres. In addition to this, the need for an applicant to have recent assessments and reports poses a substantial barrier to many of our clients who are not engaged with GP’s, specialists and other health professionals, in addition to having no financial means to access these.