People with disabilities leaving prison will benefit from longer and stronger specialised support after the extension of VACRO’s Specialist Disability Practitioner and Educator role to June 2022. 

VACRO developed the specialist role in early 2020 in response to an increase in referrals to our post-release case management program, ReConnect, for people with cognitive impairments—who have higher needs and require support responsive to their unique needs. 

Expanded funding from the Department of Justice and Community Safety – Corrections Victoria has extended the role to June 2022. 

Key points: 
  • In early 2020 we saw a need to create a specialist disability staff position, after receiving more referrals for people with cognitive impairments. 
  • Neuropsychologist Dr Laura Anderson joined VACRO to delivery disability training to staff, co-manage cases, and connected people to the NDIS and disability services.
  • This work has led to greater support and better outcomes for participants with cognitive impairments, and will continue. 

Neuropsychologist Dr Laura Anderson joined VACRO in May 2020 to create an organisational base of specialist disability knowledge and strategies: equipping our ReConnect staff with the approaches, resources and knowledge they need to deliver best practice case management for these participants.  

ReConnect Program Manager Sarah Hughes said Dr Anderson’s work enabled case managers to provide better services to participants, which resulted in better outcomes as participants settled back into their communities. 

“Thanks to this support, our staff have greater confidence and more strategies available to support participants with cognitive impairments,” she said. 

We’re seeing case managers completing NDIS Access Request forms, referring participants for neuropsychology assessments, and building stronger relationships with the services participants need. We’ve got new capacity to navigate these often complex and poorly understood issues and to give participants the best possible support.” 

Approximately one in three people in prison in Australia have long-term health conditions or disabilities that limit their daily activities. 

Evidence indicates that people with cognitive impairments who are on parole or community corrections orders breach those orders at a higher rate. Tailored post-release support for this group can reduce their risk of re-offending—improving outcomes for individuals, and making communities stronger. 

Dr Anderson said it was a privilege to contribute to VACRO’s work as the Specialised Disability Practitioner and Educator.  

“To work alongside the passionate ReConnect case managers has opened my eyes to all the aspects of their role and the work they do each day to support the transitional needs of people transitioning from prison to the community,” she said.  

“In turn, being able to provide additional specialist disability support to both the case managers and the participants has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me. I have been inspired with the enthusiasm with which the case managers have wanted to learn more about disability and develop their case management approaches in order to meet the unique and specific needs of their participants.” 

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