Supported decision making is a model for supporting people with disabilities, often cognitive disabilities, to make significant decisions and exercise their legal capacity. Specific decisions are addressed, weighed and concluded by the person with disability, while drawing on the support of:
- a network of people; or
- an individual.
Potential supporters may be friends, family, volunteers, community members or any other trusted person. These unpaid supporters may help the person with disability to gather, understand and consider relevant information about the decision in question, assist the person to weigh pros and cons, predict likely outcomes & consequences or evaluate the available options.
With this support, the person makes the decision themselves.
This process can be formally facilitated, for instance by creating written supported decision making agreements. It often occurs, however, informally within the community – both to support people with impaired decision making capacity and to support anyone in making a challenging decision.
This model of support aims to build and extend the decision making skills of those using it, developing the ability of people to make and communicate decisions with more independence and confidence. Opportunities to practice making decisions can help a person to develop valuable skill, and this skill development will assist the person during NDIS processes and in life generally.
When a person is choosing someone to act as a supporter he or she may look to informal networks of community support, family or friends, independent advocacy, peer support or to anyone else trusted to provide reliable unbiased support for decision making.
The person should be wary and mindful of any possible conflict of interest that might substantially compromise the support provided by an individual. A supporter with conflicting motives would be positioned to exert undue influence on a vulnerable decision maker and should be avoided.
Greater safeguards may be achieved by drawing on support from a group or a network of people or developing mechanisms to ensure supporters do not take advantage or abuse the trust placed on them.
The criteria for approval of supports by the Agency will generally ensure that the benefits of NDIS funded supports flow to the participant and not to others.
Some form of oversight may be needed to guard against service providers unduly influencing a person’s choices when providing forms of support during a decision making process. Anyone with interests aligned to a particular service provider should not act as a supporter for a person making decisions related to service provision.
The principles relating to participation of people with disability are particularly useful when advocating to the Agency for supported decision making options to be explored. These principles reaffirm that people are to be assumed to have capacity, and that the NDIS is to enable and support people with disabilities to make decisions and participate, and their interests in exercising choice and control should be respected. Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is also potentially persuasive to ensure a an individual is accorded respect as a legal person.