Support for Decision-Making

Linda Hughes

With support for decision making now on the NDIA’s agenda, Linda Hughes writes that we can expect to hear more about people with disability having  greater opportunity to be supported to make decisions about their own life. 
Empty space, drag to resize
The NDIA recently released a consultation paper and is seeking feedback on a new proposed Support for Decision Making policy. Importantly this signals a renewed interest and greater importance being placed on supporting people to make decisions about their lives. 
Empty space, drag to resize

We all know how important it is for all of us to have choice and control and make decisions about how we live our life. This is important for our personal wellbeing, freedom and for our sense of self. People with disability have the same rights to make decisions as everyone else.

While to date the NDIA rhetoric talks a lot about choice and control, the reality is many people with disability, particularly people with cognitive impairment, have been denied the right to make decisions about their own life. 

It is important to know that people with disability can make decisions with the right support. Some people need additional support, including access to communication aids, to compensate for decision-making difficulties. 

So what is support for decision making? Support for decision making describes various types of supports and resources to help a person with disability make decisions. People who assist a person with disability with decision making are called ‘decision supporters’. A decision supporter might be family, a friend, trusted support worker, support coordinator or other service provider. 

It is important the decision supporter knows the person well, has minimal conflict of interest and supports the person to make their own decision rather than try to influence. 

Decision supporters can assist by breaking decisions down into smaller, more easy to understand chunks, helping to identify options and where possible enabling the person to experience and understand the consequences and practicalities of each option. People with disability may also require decision supporters to help enact their decisions. 

The NDIA’s proposed policy aims to:

  • Put the person with disability at the centre of decision making 
  • Provide guidance to decision supporters, as well as NDIA staff, partners and providers

While a person with disability may need to build their capacity and confidence in decision making, it is important that the people around them also build their understanding, expectation and enable the opportunities for a person to make decisions. 

I am excited to see this renewed focus within the NDIA and the sector more broadly. This puts the onus back on us to ensure the people we support are not denied the opportunity to make decisions and are actively encouraged and supported to do so.

You may also be interested in: