How we help with disability related issues

Villamanta’s main purpose is to make sure that people in Victoria who have a disability know about the law and can use the law to help get their rights. We work mostly for people who have an intellectual disability.

You are welcome to view Villamanta’s Constitution.

Free telephone information and referral advice

Villamanta has a free call number for people who live anywhere in Victoria. Anyone wanting information, advice or referral about a disability-related legal issue can call 1800 014 111 from 1 pm – 3 pm Monday–Friday.

Who can use this service?

  • Anyone who has a disability and lives in Victoria
  • Any advocate, friend or relative of a person with a disability
  • Carers who support a person with a disability
  • Non-government or not for profit service providers

Who should not use the freecall number?

  • People working for government departments
  • People from the media
  • Students or others doing disability studies or research
  • People wanting information about something other than a disability related legal issue, or organisations calling on behalf of a person who has a disability related legal issue, (these people are asked to pay for their call by contacting us on (03) 5227 3338)

Who will be asked to contact another organisation instead of Villamanta?

  • Anyone wanting information that could be used against a person or a group of people who have a disability;
  • Anyone wanting information about a problem with someone who already uses our services;
  • Anyone wanting information that is not about a disability related legal issue;
  • Anyone with a problem that the legal system cannot help;
  • Anyone likely to get better advice from someone else.

Legal assistance

Villamanta has lawyers who will, where possible, help people with disability related legal problems. Because Villamanta is a small organisation it cannot do casework for, or give legal assistance to, everybody who asks for it.

Who may be able to get legal assistance from Villamanta?

  • Any person who has a disability and a disability-related legal problem;
  • Any guardian, administrator, family member, friend, advocate, or other person who has been asked by someone who has a disability and a disability related legal problem to contact Villamanta on their behalf.

Villamanta usually only has one or two lawyers who work on individual cases. In working out who can get our lawyers to work for them, Villamanta thinks about the following things:

  • How serious the issue is in terms of basic rights;
  • The merits of the case, which means how likely it is to be successful (including the effect of the matter upon the client);
  • Whether it will make a positive difference for a lot of people who have a disability;
  • Whether someone else can do the job;
  • Whether we have the skills and resources that are needed;
  • Whether we can work on the problem with another person or organisation;
  • Whether the matter falls within one of our priority areas.

Priority areas

Our priority areas may change each year as we go through our annual planning process.

Some examples of current priority areas for casework are:

  • Advancing the rights of people who have, or may be about to have, their finances managed by administrators
  • Advancing the rights of people who have, or may be about to have, their decisions made by guardians
  • Advancing the rights of people to have accommodation/services/quality of services, that meet their needs and that conform with the principles of the Disability Act 2006
  • Access and equity in tribunals and with complaints mechanisms, including hearings of the Guardianship List of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, the Forensic Leave Panel and the Disability Services Commissioner.

Examples of things we do

  • Representing people in tribunals, such as the Guardianship List of The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal or the Forensic Leave Panel;
  • Writing letters on behalf of people on matters to do with disability related legal issues;
  • Negotiating on behalf of people on disability related legal issues;
  • Giving advice about disability related legal issues;
  • Supporting people to make complaints, for example to the Disability Services Commissioner.

Legal problems Villamanta can help with

Problems we may be able to provide legal assistance with usually come within our priority areas (listed above).

We may also provide legal assistance in other areas if important issues of law are raised which are likely to affect other people who have a disability.

Legal problems Villamanta cannot help with

We do not provide legal assistance in instances when a person is likely to get better assistance and a better result from another lawyer or organisation. For example, in the case of a legal problem that is to do with a mental health issue, the Mental Health Legal Centre might be able to do a better job than Villamanta OR if the assistance is against a person who has a disability or group of people who have disabilities OR if there is a conflict of interest OR if we do not have the necessary resources. If we do not have the resources, people may possibly be placed on our waiting list.

If we are not the appropriate source of assistance, we will try to refer people to an organisation or person that may be able to assist them.

NDIS

Villamanta Disability Rights Legal Service Inc. provides support services to assist NDIS applicants in navigating the process of Administrative Appeals Tribunal review of National Disability Inusrance Agency decisions.

Become a Member!

Villamanta encourages anyone who supports its aims, in particular people who have a disability, to become members of the Service

It does not cost anything to become a member. Members have the right and power to have a say about the work Villamanta does.

Policy and law reform

Villamanta does policy and law reform work to try to bring about positive changes and improvements to the laws and policies affecting people with a disability.

It carries out much of its Policy & Law Reform work through its active involvement in the Federation of Community Legal Centres (Victoria), the Disability Law Committee of the Law Institute of Victoria and their working groups, and Disability Advocacy Victoria Inc. (DAV), which is the peak body for independent disability advocacy in Victoria, and the Victorian Legal Assistance Forum.

Villamanta has been involved in the following activities that included policy and law reform:

Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) Access to Justice initiative

Villamanta has been actively involved in stakeholder forums organised by Victoria Legal Aid to improve access to justice for Victorian people, in particular those who have a disability and continues to collaborate with VLA in furthering this project.

Human Rights Charter (Victoria)

Along with the Federation of Community Legal Centres, Villamanta continues to monitor the implementation and use of the Victorian Human Rights Charter. Villamanta’s lawyers continue to use Charter arguments in their casework matters whenever possible.

A Bill of Rights for Australia/Human Rights Framework

Villamanta, in collaboration with many of its colleague organisations, continues to lobby for the introduction of a national Charter of Human Rights for Australia.

Shut In Campaign

Villamanta is a participant in the Shut In Campaign, coordinated by People With Disability Australia, aimed at ending the institutionalisation of people who have a disability.

Child Protection Legislation

Villamanta continues to actively monitor the Victorian Child Protection legislation, in particular, aspects of it which are likely to be detrimental to parents who have a disability.

The Victorian State Disability Services Legislation – The Disability Act 2006

Villamanta continues to monitor and give input regarding the implementation of the Disability Act 2006 and will pursue desired amendments. Villamanta is continuing to educate constituents about the system and assist them to access it.

General policy and law reform activities

In collaboration with the Law Institute of Victoria’s Disability Law Committee and its working groups, Villamanta has worked on mental health legislation, Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) Guardianship List policies and procedures, Inquiry into Powers of Attorney, UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s review of the Guardianship legislation and the government’s response and draft legislation, the Australian Human Rights Commission’s inquiry into access to justice in the criminal justice system for people with disability, the VEOHRC inquiry into experiences of people with disabilities in Victoria when they report crime, concerns with the Guardianship List of VCAT, Psychiatric Inpatient suicides, Coroner’s Court Restructure, review of the Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness To Be Tried) Act 1997, the impact of cuts to Forensicare (the Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health) on mentally ill people facing criminal charges, the Senate Inquiry into the Involuntary or Coerced Sterilisation of People with Disabilities in Australia, Disability Vilification, Interagency Guideline for responding to the abuse, exploitation and neglect of at-risk adults (IGUANA) and the abuse of people with disabilities in institutions.

Villamanta’s submission on the Review of NDIS Costs

In March 2017 Villamanta made a submission to the Productivity Commission’s Review of NDIS Costs.

VIEW VILLAMANTA’S SUBMISSION

Villamanta’s project on people who have an intellectual disability and the criminal justice system

Villamanta distributes its publication, People who have an Intellectual Disability and the Criminal Justice System: A Guide and Educational Tool for People working in the Criminal Justice System: Judges, Magistrates, Court Staff, Lawyers, Advocates, Police and Corrections Workers. This was funded by the Victoria Law Foundation.

This publication aims to provide a better understanding of the issues for people who have an intellectual disability to those working in the criminal justice system and help to ensure that people who have an intellectual disability are provided with the best possible and most appropriate treatment and assistance.

READ PUBLICATION

The Disability Services Commissioner

The Disability Services Commissioner, appointed under the Disability Act 2006, is the main point for complaints from Victorian people who have a disability about disability services. Villamanta continues to support constituents to learn about and use the complaints system. Villamanta has met with Commission staff on a number of occasions and provided feedback on how the legislation and system are working and shall continue to do so. It also lobbies for appropriate improvements to the system.

Villamanta has supported a number of clients to access the Commissioner’s complaints system during the reporting period. The Commissioner is also now the complaints body for Victorian people wishing to complain about disability services that are funded under the NDIS.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

Villamanta worked with its advocacy and legal sector colleagues to prepare for the advent of the NDIS (formerly DisabiltyCare Australia). The commencement of pilot programs in launch sites in a number of states – including the Barwon region in Victoria – have been extremely heartening to all those who have been campaigning for this for so long.

Along with its advocacy and legal sector colleagues, Villamanta will continue to assist constituents to understand and access the scheme, and will monitor and provide feedback during the pilot phase and once it is finally fully up and running throughout Victoria.

“Fight the Fee Hike” Campaign

Villamanta worked to oppose the previous Victorian Government’s efforts to greatly increase the fees of people who live in community residential units. It was planned to make people living in these houses pay 75% of their Disability Support Pension and 100% of their rental assistance. This would have been a cruel and intolerable imposition on the lives of Victoria’s most vulnerable citizens. VALID, and many people who have a disability and their families and advocates, united in a campaign to oppose this, and Villamanta provided legal advice and representation at VCAT with a successful outcome. We will continue to monitor for any further developments in this matter and take appropriate action if required.