As an external dispute resolution service, we are committed to ensuring our free service is accessible to all Australians. This is especially significant for people in difficult or vulnerable circumstances.
The FOS Access Working Group (FAWG) was formed to assess causes of any barriers to accessing our service for people who experience physical or mental health issues. The group then investigates how these barriers can be removed, by adapting current processes or developing new ones. FAWG seeks to ensure FOS’s accessibility initiatives and process changes remain inclusive and appropriate.
Disability Action Plan
We are working on a strategic initiative called the Disability Action Plan (DAP). With this plan, FAWG wants to change practices that might unintentionally result in accessibility issues for people with disabilities.
The plan will assess how we currently offer assistance to people with accessibility issues and identify ways to engage with them effectively. “One of the ways we will do this is to develop partnerships with key organisations and community groups who will assist us in understanding the needs of people with physical and mental health conditions,” said Peter Fisher, Chair of FAWG and team manager at FOS.
The plan will have three themes: User experience, employment & culture, and community. The themes will work together to explore how we can improve the service we provide by reviewing our current processes and practices, identifying barriers for people with disabilities in accessing our service and planning strategies to eliminate these barriers.
When people lodge disputes, we encourage them to let us know if they are experiencing issues that might require additional support. In 2016-17, we received 1,564 requests for additional assistance, which was 84% more than last year. Of this, 613 identified as having mental health issues, an increase of 82%.
“Given that mental health was the number one additional assistance request we received in 2016-17, the plan will have a particular focus in this area,” said Peter.
How will members be involved?
“We want to make accessibility guides available on Secure Services. We currently have guides for staff but plan to also tailor them for members,” shared Peter. “The guides will provide comprehensive information on how to help people with accessibility issues.
We plan to connect with members so we can learn from shared experiences and processes. We hope to attend and participate at member forums, along with the Reconciliation Action Plan Crew and the Family Violence Working Group.”
If you are a member of FOS and would like more information on the Disability Action Plan, please contact Peter Fisher at [email protected].