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S32 Step By Step Guide

Obtaining evidence of intellectual disability

A current comprehensive psychological assessment by an appropriately qualified and experienced psychologist is the best way to prove your client's intellectual disability.

Intellectual disability is a life-long disability and does not usually change substantially over time, so existing assessments should be accepted as relevant to the question of disability. This point should be made to the magistrate if you are tendering existing reports.

Some magistrates may be unwilling to accept this line of reasoning and may require an updated report as proof of disability. You will need to gauge the attitude of the bench to accepting existing assessments prior to the presentation of the application to the court, and seek new assessments if indicated.

If the judicial officer has indicated that existing evidence is insufficient, you should seek an adjournment and apply for a grant of aid to fund a new report. You should state the reasons for seeking the grant of aid clearly in your Legal Aid grant application.

While intellectual disability is a permanent diagnosis, there may be some variation in the relative strengths and weaknesses demonstrated in the assessment of the various areas of adaptive functioning. For example, your client's home living skills may have improved if they have received training or may have declined if they have been homeless for some time. If you decide that possible changes in your client's adaptive function are relevant to the application, you should seek an updated assessment. Again, if you are seeking a grant of aid for this purpose, it is important to clearly state the reasons in your grant application.

Some agencies may already hold existing assessments of your client from the past which can be accessed. We all have a right to access personal and health information held about us by government and other organisations.

It is important to have your client's authority to obtain information from any organisation. Some organisations will require a specific authority rather than a general authority.

How to Get Evidence of Your Client's Intellectual Disability

Remember: Always get your client to sign a consent form. Organisations will not share information without one.


Who to contact for evidence


Complex matter or inadequate existing evidence

Seek a new assessment from a psychologist and apply for a grant from Legal Aid NSW to cover the cost

Client is an existing or past ADHC client

Contact ADHC and, if possible, client's caseworker


Client uses non-government disability services

Contact the non-government disability service providers

Client uses non-government disability services

Contact the non-government disability service providers

Client has previous criminal history or section 32 applications

Contact the client's previous legal representatives and/or Legal Aid NSW

Client has previously been incarcerated

Contact Justice Health NSWJustice Health & Forensic Mental Health Network
Telephone: (02) 9700 3000
Fax: (02) 9700 3493
or the Information Access and Privacy Unit at Corrective Services NSWThe Information Access and Privacy Unit at Corrective Services NSW
Telephone: (02) 8346 1333
Contact details:

Client has attended a special class or special school

Contact the school directly and/or the Information Access Unit at the Department of Education and CommunitiesInformation Access Unit, NSW Education and Communities
Telephone: 02 9561 8100
Fax: 02 9561 1157

Client recieves Disability Support Pension

Contact Department of Human Services (Formerly CentreLink)Department of Human Services (Formerly CentreLink)
General contact information: 132 468
Disability Sickness and Carers: 132 717

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Ageing, Disability and Home Care (ADHC)

ADHC is the main agency that provides services to people with intellectual disability in NSW.

If your client is an existing or a past ADHC client, there may be an existing psychologist's assessment or other reports on file. If your client is a current ADHC client, contact their case worker. If your client has been an ADHC client, contact the Information, Referral and Intake line for your region.

ADHC Contact details:

Non-government (NGO) disability services

A range of specialist services, including employment, drop-in home support, community access services and case management services are available to people with intellectual disability from non-government organisations (NGOs).

Check to see if your client is involved with such services and whether the service has any assessments or is able to assess the client. If there is no formal assessment, the service may provide a report or letter confirming your client's disability.

Click here for a list of NGO disability Services

Health - GP or specialist

GPs, particularly those who have seen your client over an extended period of time, may have copies of existing reports or may be able to comment upon your client's intellectual disability. A short letter from a GP will not be strong evidence of your client's disability and should only be relied on in very limited circumstances.

Some treating specialists such as psychologists, neurologists or psychiatrists may be in a position to provide evidence of your client's disability. If you seek a new report from a treating specialist, it is likely to involve a fee.

Further reading - Arranging and funding an assessment

Court Records - Previous criminal history or section 32 applications

Contact your client's previous legal representatives for copies of any assessments or reports of disability previously submitted. Contact the Local Court registry to access the court file and request copies of documents contained in it.

Whether or not this course of action will be useful will depend upon how long ago the matter was before the courts and the quality of the materials originally tendered.

Prison Records - Previous incarceration

Information in relation to a client who has previously been incarcerated could possibly be held by either Justice Health or Corrective Services NSW. Justice Health is separate to Corrective Services. Information held by Justice Health is more likely to pertain to a person's mental and physical health than to a person's intellectual disability. Particularly if your client has mental illness, then this could be a useful source of evidence.

Justice Health will supply information upon receipt of a signed consent form. Requests should be as specific as possible, and at a minimum should include your client's full name, date of birth and details of the type of information sought. Inclusion of a MIN number is not essential, but would be helpful. there is no processing fee unless the information sought is extensive. Applications can be faxed to (02) 9289 5014.

An application form is available on the Corrective Services website - Corrective Services NSW, Information Access and Privacy Unit Documents

Education - Special class or special school

The Department of Education and Communities holds two types of records about its students:

  • School records
  • Counselling records

School records are held for either seven years after the student leaves school or until the student's 25th birthday, whichever occurs first. School records can sometimes be obtained informally directly from the school.

Reports that are over seven years old should not be relied upon except in straight forward matters where the person's disability seems clear.

Both sorts of records can be obtained from - The Department of Education and Communities, Information Access Unit

All people who are in receipt of a DSP will have undergone some form of assessment. The assessment procedures for the DSP have become more rigorous in recent times. The more recent the assessment, the more detailed and useful it is likely to be.

Requests for copies of assessments must be in writing and can either be made online or to any Centrelink office. If the assessment is readily available in the office in which the application is made, the process will be straightforward. If not, the matter will be allocated to an FOI officer who will complete the request. You will receive notification of the name of the officer handling the request.

For further information - Access documents held by the Department of Human Services

Level of evidence requiredArranging and funding an assessment

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