Frontline VACRO staff are better equipped to deliver specialist support to participants with cognitive impairments after training this week from our Specialist Disability Practitioner and Educator, Dr Laura Anderson.

The training provided staff with the knowledge and skills needed to identify cognitive impairment, and to design specific strategies to support a participant with cognitive impairment navigate their contact with the criminal justice system.

Key points:

  • We know the rate of disability in prisons are likely higher than what assessment rates show us
  • Dr Laura Anderson delivered cognitive impairment training to VACRO staff who work directly with program participants
  • This support will enable our staff to more confidently and skilfully support their clients

ReConnect Program Manager Sarah Hughes said the training would enable her team to better support some of their most vulnerable participants.

“When a person has an undiagnosed cognitive impairment, their behaviours and attitudes can be misinterpreted as the person being disinterested or unmotivated to make changes,” she said.

“With the new skills from this training, VACRO staff can understand the factors that contribute to a person’s behaviour, and manage it more effectively. They become a better source of support to the participant.”

We know around 30 per cent of people in prison in Australia have a long-term health condition or disability that limits their daily activities, education or employment. But under-reporting of these cases means many of the people most in need of support miss out.

Laura said a lack of health prison data and the prohibitive cost of diagnosing a person in prison caused people to miss out on diagnoses.

“Without a diagnosis you often can’t access disability specific supports,” she said.

“Supporting our staff to know what signs of cognitive impairment to look for and giving them the confidence they need to implement supportive strategies will result in better outcomes for our participants with cognitive impairments.”

Laura’s training covered a background on cognitive functioning; information about the prevalence of cognitive impairments in the criminal justice systems; profiles of common cognitive impairments; and strategies for effectively managing support delivery for participants with cognitive impairments.

Laura’s appointment to VACRO’s ReConnect team in May 2020 underscored VACRO’s commitment to innovative program delivery and best practice in our work. We look forward to continuing to learn from her expertise.

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