Reporting advocacy issues

Clarify advocacy categories

Option for discussion
  • Review the categorisation of disability advocacy issues, and provide guidance on how to interpret them

The current QDC form asks organisations to count the number of people provided with advocacy support on the following topics:

  • Abuse and Neglect
  • Gender
  • Accommodation
  •  Health
  • Built Environment
  • Legal
  • Disability Services
  • Leisure and Recreation
  • Education
  • Transport
  • Employment
  • NDIS
  • Family
  • Other

No further information is provided about what these categories mean, or how to determine which category a particular advocacy case may belong. For instance, assisting a woman with disability escaping family violence could conceivably be categorised as abuse and neglect, accommodation, family, gender or legal. It is unclear whether organisations are interpreting these categories in the same way, or if some organisations are selecting only the most relevant categories, while others select all and any that could conceivably apply.

This means the data on advocacy issues may not provide a good reflection of the proportions of people experiencing particular advocacy issues.

DARU observes a number of specific topics have particular problems with interpretation:

  • NDIS: the NDIS was added as an advocacy topic in the 2015-16 financial year. In Disability Advocacy by the Numbers, DARU combined this topic with ‘disability services’ for continuity of reporting over a four-year period. However, it is unclear how ‘NDIS’ differs from ‘disability services’, particularly as in the future, most disability services will be funded by the NDIS.
  • Legal: This area is unclear as to its categorisation, as many problems may involve the law or require legal advocacy. It is unclear whether this category is intended to apply to issues involving the justice system, such as criminal charges or dealing with fines, compared with any case that may require a court appearance or legal advice, such as family law, child protection, tenancy law, or guardianship proceedings.
  • Family: This reporting item may be unclear as to the scope of issues covered. Issues relating to family could include family conflict, family violence, child protection, guardianship, inheritance matters or relationship breakdowns, including divorce. These issues may overlap with other categories.
  • Built environment: There may be some overlap between this category and that of ‘accommodation’ and ‘transport’ which both also pertain to the built environment.
  • Gender: This category is very rarely used by disability advocacy organisations to record advocacy issues. It is unclear what is meant by a ‘gender issue’ for the purposes of reporting, and advocacy organisations may be reporting advocacy issues where the person’s gender is pertinent in other categories.
  • Financial: DARU observes there is no category to cover issues relating to a person’s income, financial management, or control over their finances. Disability advocacy organisations report these are heavily represented in their advocacy work.

It is not clear whether the categories intend to capture the cause of the advocacy issue or the type of service or organisation the advocacy is engaged with. For example, if a person requires a transport service to access health appointments, the underlying reason for advocacy is to maintain a person’s health. However, the service they require is a transport service, which an advocate may assist with securing. It is unclear how organisations should categorise this issue.

One way to help maintain consistency would be to provide advocacy organisations with guidance and examples of how to categorise advocacy issues, so they are making consistent interpretations.


Review data collection for systemic, group and self-advocacy

Option for discussion
  • Explore alternative options for collecting data on systemic, group and self-advocacy

It is unclear whether organisations are including people other than those receiving individual advocacy services when completing the QDC form.

There are several instances where the data for individual advocacy issues is heavily influenced by the data from a single organisation. There are examples where organisations report assisting more people with a particular advocacy topic than they have clients. It is possible that some organisations are reporting people assisted through systemic, group or self-advocacy when reporting on advocacy topics.

These instances may influence the data reported in Disability Advocacy by the Numbers. For example, there is a noticeable spike in the December 2015 quarter for the number of people assistance with transport issues. This is heavily influenced by data from a single organisation.

The QDC form provides an opportunity for written, qualitative data on systemic advocacy. DARU was not provided with this information. The QDC form does not collect any information on group or self-advocacy activities.

Consideration could be given as to whether it is appropriate to collect more information on systemic, group and self-advocacy activities, and the most appropriate form in which to do so.


Measure intensity of advocacy

Options for discussion
  • Consider measuring the number of ‘advocacy cases’ undertaken by disability advocacy organisations
  • Consider ways to measure service intensity, such as the length of time taken to complete advocacy cases

Currently, the Victorian Disability Advocacy Program only collects data on the numbers of people accessing advocacy services.

However, this may not be the best unit to measure the amount of service being provided. A person may contact a disability advocacy service with multiple advocacy issues, or a person may return to the advocacy service with a different concern for resolution. In other words, a single person may seek assistance from an organisation for multiple ‘advocacy cases’. The current process does not collect data on multiple services provided to the same person.

Consideration could be given to collecting data on the number of ‘advocacy cases’ an organisation undertakes. For instance, organisations could report the number of advocacy cases commenced or completed during a reporting period. This would allow organisations to record instances where they had assisted an existing client with an additional advocacy issue.

This would also allow a better method of collecting information on advocacy issues. By identifying the advocacy issue attached to each case, the data would more clearly be able to determine the prevalence of different categories of issues.

The QDC currently asks organisations to report how much time was spent providing individual advocacy per person in the quarter.

It provides the options of:

  • One-off assistance
  • Short-term (a month or so)
  • Medium-term (a few months)
  • Long-term (more than six months)

DARU was not provided with data for this question.

This method of collecting data has a number of shortcomings. The answer options are vague, without clear delineation between categories. They are also awkward, as technically an advocacy service cannot provide long-term support during a quarter. Finally, the question could provide inaccurate data, as organisations are asked to respond for all people receiving individual advocacy, including people whose advocacy case is not complete. In this case, organisations can only report how long a person has been supported up until the time of reporting, which may not indicate how long the case actually takes.

An alternative suggestion is to collect data on the length of time an advocacy case takes on completion. By recording the actual length of advocacy cases, a more reliable indicator of service intensity can be produced.