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National Standards for Disability Services Highlight the Need for all Staff to be Trained on Balancing Rights and Risk

Right Approach owner Suzanne Arnold contends that training is critical to empower people with a disability to have the choice and control they want, and balance rights and risk. This is consistent with the National Standards for Disability Services which states it is integral that all frontline staff, management, and governing bodies are suitably qualified and skilled to perform in their roles.

In her experience as the owner/operator of a childcare service with a specialisation in children with disabilities she found that the landscape of risk in disability services can be immensely complex. The tort of negligence imposes a non-delegable duty to take reasonable measures to protect people from risks of injury that are reasonably foreseeable – termed duty of care. People with a disability are often perceived as a source of risk first rather than being encouraged to take positive risks. The principles on which the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and current disability legislation, are based make it very clear that it is unreasonable to restrict a person’s human rights. The term ‘dignity of risk’ promotes each person’s autonomy and self-determination to make choices, control and guide the services they receive and the lifestyle they want, including the choice to take risks.

The language of risk needs to be determined by service users and reflect the rights of people with a disability to take risks in the same way as people without a disability. Positive risk taking needs to be part of the culture and ethos of the service. The promotion of choice and control, of more creative and positive risk-taking, implies greater responsibility on the part of the service user at the centre to keep themselves safe in the same way as a person without a disability.

Right Approach will train and consult for a range of organisations to empower people with a disability to have the choice and control they want, and balance rights and risk, including government, schools, not-for-profit, sport clubs and many other organisations. The focus needs to be on building capacity and reflection.