The CEOs of two Victorian criminal justice reintegration service providers – Vacro and Jesuit Social Services – have written jointly to NDIS Minister Bill Shorten to express concern regarding recent media coverage about limiting access to the NDIS for people who have been convicted of serious offences. The coverage suggests that the federal government may be considering screening”[1] NDIS applicants for any criminal convictions and that people with convictions for serious offences may be barred”[2] or banned”[3] from accessing the scheme. Vacro and Jesuit Social Services’ extensive and specialist experience supporting people, some with serious convictions, to reintegrate into their community post-release in partnership with the NDIS leads both organisations to strongly oppose these suggestions.

The two CEOs have requested an urgent meeting with Minister Shorten to consult on the disability support needs of people leaving prison, and how they can be most effectively met. Many people who we support during and after their time in prison live with undiagnosed or untreated disabilities, and our staff are often scrambling to get them the support that they are entitled to through the NDIS before their release back into the community. It is clear that these people should have been supported by the NDIS prior to the offending that led to their prison sentences, and that the community would be safer if that were the case. Currently, for those who enter prison without NDIS access, it can be difficult to gather evidence, determine eligibility, and create a plan for NDIS entry while incarcerated. The thought of further reducing this access, or making pathways more challenging to access, is deeply concerning.

The notion that our participants are being "dumped" on the NDIS and that the NDIS is being used to "protect" the pubic from people with serious convictions is false. In Victoria, there is a comprehensive system that monitors, supervises, and restricts people who have committed serious offences and are deemed to be at high risk of offending when they are released. Their forensic needs are supported by the state government, while the NDIS should take responsibility for their disability needs just like it would for any other member of the community. The NDIS is not used to provide protection; it is used to provide holistic and person-centred support for people with disabilities, which also promotes community safety. The NDIA is rigorous in ensuring that support is not provided to mitigate forensic risk but only based on how the individual's functional capacity is impacted by their disability. We know first-hand that this support is a crucial part of their first steps toward creating a new, meaningful life and identity. And when they can do that, we know that the risk of reoffending is reduced.


Quote attributable to Julie Edwards, CEO of Jesuit Social Services

“People who have been convicted of an offence, or are in prison, are still members of our community and deserve the same access to NDIS supports as anybody else. We know that people with disabilities, especially intellectual disabilities and acquired brain injuries, are vastly over-represented in the prison system. While we don't collect the data in Victoria, international research indicates that people with disabilities (especially intellectual disabilities) are also over-represented among the population of people who are incarcerated for serious offences. These people do not need to be barred or banned from the NDIS. They need intensive disability support of the kind that is provided by the NDIS in Australia.”


Quote attributable to Marius Smith, CEO of Vacro

“The real problem is not that too many people involved with the justice system have access to too much NDIS support, but that too many people with disabilities only begin to receive the support they need after they have been through the criminal justice system, often more than once. We should be ensuring that there is better, more accessible disability support for people in the criminal justice system, including stronger assessment and screening processes prior to a person's release, and we should also be ensuring that everyone in this country who is eligible for NDIS support gets it. That would go some way towards breaking the connection between living with disability and becoming involved with the criminal justice system, making all of our communities stronger.”


For more information, please contact Vacro’s Senior Policy & Advocacy Advisor, Abigail Lewis (0468 566 218, [email protected]) or Jesuit Social Services’ Media Relations Manager, Kathryn Kernohan (0409 901 248, [email protected]).