Local disability support provider, Central Coast Disability Network (CCDN), will launch a new disability advocacy program, Community before Corrections, to support people with cognitive impairment who are at risk of a custodial sentence in Wyong and Gosford.

The program will be funded thanks to a grant awarded by the Federal Government under the Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) component of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Jenny MacKellin, Chief Executive Officer of Central Coast Disability Network, said that this support will help CCDN to equip people with a disability with the skills and confidence needed to participate in and contribute to the community, as well as protect their rights when dealing with the criminal justice system.

“People with cognitive impairment are overrepresented in our criminal justice system and are three to nine times more likely to be imprisoned than the general population,” said
Ms MacKellin.

“The Community before Corrections program will utilise the skill of specialist advocacy trainers and mentors to help participants to develop capacity for self-advocacy and decision-making, with the ultimate aim of reducing offending behaviour and increasing community participation,” she added.

The program will also provide an opportunity for people with a disability to have an active voice that will guide the development and implementation of the project through their inclusion on the project’s Steering Committee, which will include people with a disability in its membership.

“This program will address the barriers that people with a disability face in local courts as defendants, witnesses or victims and provide meaningful support to help individuals understand, identify and communicate their needs to others,” Ms MacKellin concluded.

CCDN brings 39 years of experience in delivering Commonwealth and State-funded programs to support people with a disability including advocacy, support coordination, capacity building, community access, respite, and supported independent living.