People with cognitive disabilities may not be able to access the services that are right for them because they face hurdles of inaccessible information, communication difficulties, and insufficient support in making decisions about the goods and services that might work best for them.
A recent pilot study by Melbourne Social Equity Institute focused on the challenges and support needs of one group of disadvantaged consumers of essential services – people who have decision making impairments related to cognitive or psychosocial (mental health-related) disabilities. The study indicated that this group lacks access to suitable, affordable products and services, has difficulty understanding information and communicating with service providers and would benefit from greater accessibility and support to fully exercise their rights as consumers.
Purpose & Outcomes
This project will assist a group of leading utilities and telecommunications better support customers who have decision-making impairments associated with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities.
The benefits for industry partners include the opportunity to spearhead industry innovation around access and inclusion. It also ensures business to avoid the negative consequences of consumers entering unsuitable contracts they cannot fulfil.
Supported decision-making has many benefits for people with cognitive disabilities. It helps promote the rights and dignity of individuals, facilitates social and economic participation, and ensures that people's voices are heard and respected. Supported decision-making can help develop peoples decision-making skills that align with their needs and financial circumstances.
People who have the support they require to make decisions are more likely to be happy and satisfied with their choices and to feel that they have control and agency in their lives.[i]
The Melbourne Social Equity Institute (University of Melbourne) will undertake this research in conjunction with industry partners Telstra, AGL Energy, EnergyAustralia, Origin Energy, City West Water, South East Water and Yarra Valley Water.
[i] Margaret Wallace, Evaluation of the Supported Decision Making Project (Report, Office of the Public Advocate South Australia, 2012).