Intellectual Disability Rights Service - volunteering with us as a support worker - work involved

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Volunteering with Criminal Justice Support network (CJSN)

Benifits gained by CJSN volunteers

  • gain experience and knowledge of the New South Wales Criminal Justice System
  • learn what it is to have intellectual disability and the societal issues and ramifications that having intellectual disability entails
  • hands-on opportunities to actively enable vulnerable persons to understand that they have rights and to access these rights

Aim of the role of a CJSN volunteer

The main aim is to reduce the disadvantages people experience in the legal system due to their disability.

We try to achieve this by supporting persons with intellectual disability who come into contact with the Criminal Justice System, whether as victims, witnesses or accused of commiting a crime.

Knowledge, skills and experience required of a CJSN volunteer

  • must be flexible and have highly developed communication and effective listening skills
  • volunteers will need to be objective, tolerant and empathetic
  • able to conduct themselves in a responsible and professional manner
  • able to manage confidential information and protect the privacy of themselves, the clients' and others involved

Supervision and reporting

  • Volunteers are trained and continually supervised by CJSN Regional Coordinators
  • Volunteers report to the CJSN Regional Coordinators
  • CJSN Regional Coordinators are available to discuss issues faced by the volunteers

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Volunteering to provide CJSN Court Support

Focus of the role

  • assist with communication and understanding of court and legal processes
  • improve access to legal advice and representation, as well as provide some information
  • enable the client to exercise their legal rights by assisting them to communicate with their solicitor and other court officers to understand and better participate in the proceedings
  • facilitate understanding of the significance of legal judgments and/or decision/s made by the client including possible legal outcomes
  • volunteers are required to complete and submit relevant paperwork regarding client supports and outcomes


Volunteer's availability to provide support

  • CJSN tries to provide as much notice as possible of up coming supports
  • court support is usually during business hours
  • supports such as meetings with solicitors sometimes may continue beyond 5:00PM
  • court supports can often require a volunteer for a full day, although sometimes the support can finish before lunch-time
  • volunteers are encouraged to provide support until a given matter finishes; this can involve multiple supports through a period of time

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Volunteering to provide CJSN Police Station Support

CJSN Police Station Support is provided to people with intellectual disability who are victims, witnesses or who are accused of commiting a crime.

Supporting victims and witnesses of crime

Support at police station may be needed when someone has been a victim of a crime or has witnessed a crime, and the police need to formally interview the person.

Focus of the role

  • provide emotional support to the person during the interview
  • assist the person to understand their options
  • alert the police to any needs the person might have
  • alert the police to when the person may not be understanding the questions
  • during the interview, give suggestions to the police officers to maximise successful communication with the person
  • liaising back to the CJSN Regional Co-ordinator with referral needs, follow-up needed (e.g. for court support, legal advice)
  • volunteers are required to complete and submit relevant paperwork regarding client supports and outcomes

When providing support during these interviews it would be preferable to have some contact with the person by phone or in person prior to the interview

Volunteer's availability to provide support for victims and witnesses of crime

  • these police interviews are usually in business hours and with some notice
  • these interviews would normally involve being at the police station and occasionally there might be need for a second interview

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Supporting a person suspected of commiting a crime

Picture of a support worker with a arrested man in the police cell.

Focus of the role

  • assisting the person to understand and exercise their rights
  • assist with understanding of police legal processes such as the caution, the right to not submit to forensic procedures and/or taped interviews
  • ensure that the police are aware of any needs the person may have – e.g. medication
  • help the client understand and better participate in the proceedings by enabling them to exercise their legal rights by assisting the person to access and communicate with a solicitor and police officers
  • alerting the police if you believe the person is not understanding their questions or is getting confused by the interview
  • if the person gets legal advice – helping them to understand and remember that advice
  • monitoring that the interview is conducted fairly
  • liaising back to CJSN Regional Co-ordinator with referral needs, or other follow-up the person may need
  • facilitate understanding of the significance of making statements and/or decisions made by the client including possible legal outcomes
  • volunteers are required to complete and submit relevant paperwork regarding client supports and outcomes

Volunteer's availability to provide support for a person suspected of commiting a crime

  • CJSN endeavour to provide 24 hour, 7 days a week availability of support for people with an intellectual disability at police stations as these supports can happen any time
  • police interviews often occur with short notice
  • due to the unpredicatability, volunteers are advised to keep CJSN updated about their availability

Please also read training we provide to volunteer support workers

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