Supported Decision Making

Supported decision making has always been and will always be an integral part of how we understand, shape and implement support with people with a disability, particularly if they have complex communication or other needs. Any yet many service providers, practitioners, families do not know what Supported Decision Making looks like and how to embed it in people’s daily lives.

The focus on supported decision making is, however, now increasing which is fantastic to see. Supported decision making is an integral part of upholding all people’s human right’s and supporting them to be their own advocates in forging the life they want to lead.

As the NDIS states… “People with disability have the same right as other members of Australian society to be able to determine their own best interests, including the right to exercise choice and control, and to engage as equal partners in decisions that will affect their lives, to the full extent of their capacity.” (NDIS Act (Cth) s 4(8).

Even more so, the role of supported decision making is essential in meeting our obligations under the Quality and Safeguarding Commission Behaviour Support rules.

However, we find ourselves in a bit of a pickle in relation to actually ENGAGING in supported decision making. It is listed as a requirement in policies, rule and regulations and yet we remain bewildered in what this actually looks like in practice. We state that consent needs to be gained from people with a disability, especially in relation to the use of Restrictive Practices, but how does one truly engage in gaining consent that is informed, voluntary and current? And how do we start to look at consent being a lifelong process embedded in a developmental supported decision making process rather than just a situational specific desired outcome?

Thankfully this area is gaining much interest in recent times and many frameworks and training opportunities are being developed. I encourage people to seek information from a wide range of sources on this topic as there is really no ‘one’ framework that comes up with all the answers and skills we need. I have come across one framework which offers free online training for providers. This is reported to be the only evidenced based Supported Decision Making Framework currently available with links to research in its use. And of course, it is developed by the most wonderful Christine Bigby and Jacinta Lewis, who, if you don’t already know their work, I highly recommend learning more about them. You can find this training on this website.

Maybe you’d like to start here in learning more about Supported Decision Making. And once you have, then let’s talk about how we engage in supported decision making for people with complex communication needs…. now that’s another story.

Debbie Lobb
ECSN Program Manager

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