Kymberly Martin

New resource increases disability skills for child protection professionals

In an Australian first, the University of Sydney Research Centre for Children and Families has produced a resource to increase the disability skills of child protection professionals.  The resource offers disability-informed practice guidance for professionals working in child protection and Children’s Courts. It will also assist clinical assessors and experts, judicial officers, statutory authorities, caseworkers from government and non-government organisations, independent legal representatives, Legal Aid and private solicitors.


The resource has been developed to increase the chances of families staying together by helping professionals take simple steps to assess parents with intellectual disability in a fair and accessible way.

According to senior research fellow at the centre, Dr Susan Collings, who led the research, parents with intellectual disability have a right to expect  to be treated fairly when they encounter the child protection system.

“What makes this disability-informed practice guide for parenting capacity assessments stand out as a credible source is the unique collaboration to make it a reality,” she said. Working with the research team at the University of Sydney were the New South Wales Children’s Court Clinic, Intellectual Disability Rights Service, and the WASH House, with guidance from an Aboriginal Elder and a Children’s Court magistrate.


“Training the workforce to become disability-informed will ensure that every parent who encounters the child protection system is guaranteed fair treatment, including those with intellectual disability,” Collings said.

To discuss the issues and present the practice guide to a broader audience, a webinar will be held, on June 23, from 1-2pm with the opening address given by the NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman. The webinar will be filmed and available on the Research Centre’s website.

Progress towards achieving equitable treatment of families where a parent has an intellectual disability has been slow. Parents with intellectual disability make up about one per cent of the Australian population but represent 10 per cent of care and protection matters. The reasons are complex but can include socio-economic disadvantage, disability discrimination and social exclusion.

Program with zoom link for the webinar: