1. What are my rights if I agree to participate in vocational rehabilitation?

Although your rights may not be explicitly stated it is now generally accepted that vocational rehabilitation ought to be delivered in a ‘tailored and person centred’ way. There is no standard approach that fits everyone. This means that the worker, or person accessing vocational rehabilitation, needs to be aware of what is happening and why, throughout all stages of their vocational rehabilitation process. These implicit rights may include the following:

 

    • Right to Access. This means access to appropriate assistance at the best time. This includes access to your rehabilitation consultant by regular appointments at regular intervals to ensure you are fully involved and aware of the progress of your case.
    • Right to Respect. This means respect for you as the person or worker seeking rehabilitation. This includes respect for your cultural and religious background, personal identity, sexual identity, personal experiences, and personal beliefs. There should also be an acknowledgement that you are an important source of information about your own strengths, preferences, and needs for assistance.
    • Right to Information. You have a right to request access to all information relevant to decisions about you and your case. There may be some formal requirements about how to access specific documents such as medical assessments. Some forms of information may not be easily accessible. Your rehabilitation consultant will be able to tell you more about how to access relevant information. The general principle is that if a document is relevant to your case, unless there is a particular reason to prevent release, then you should be able to obtain a copy and have its contents fully explained to you.
    • Right to Support. This means that all those involved in your case should be caring and supportive. This means that you should feel understood and encouraged to take measured risks in your recovery at work plan. You should also feel that other key people are acting in accord with your preferences, strengths and limitations. It is possible that at times your limits or perceptions may be assessed, challenged or questioned, but should not be a regular experience. Generally you should feel valued, believed and supported by your rehabilitation consultant, and by your current employment supervisor, and by your insurer.
    • Right to Partnership. This means a right to participate as an equal partner with the rehabilitation consultant and with any other stakeholder involved. It also means you have the right to involve an advocate or a family member, or your treating doctor, to participate in partnerships with you and any other stakeholders.
    • Right to Communication. This is about your right to have all those involved in your rehabilitation to communicate clearly with each other (and with you) in plain English and in a timely manner. This is important to avoid conflicts between different appointments or interventions that may be required. For instance a change of medication may not be appropriate if it commences in the same week that you are due to start a new job.
    • Right to Competent Services. This is about your right to receive professionally competent services at all times and in a timely manner. It is important to not let anything delay your progress unless this is really necessary. Any proposed activity which can delay rehabilitation progress for reasons that don’t seem important can be discussed with your rehabilitation consultant. If you have any concerns about the quality of any services provided, you should discuss this with your rehabilitation consultant at the earliest opportunity.
    • Right to Privacy. This right means that all information held about you and your case can only be used in accord with Australian Government privacy principles. This means that the purpose for which you have consented for the information to be used is respected. There is also an expectation that information is not shared with third parties unless your permission is provided, and there are valid reasons for sharing that information. You should be able to discover who has access to your sensitive personal and medical information, and for what purposes that information is being used. How that information is shared, for example with new prospective employers, should also be discussed with you.
    • Right to appeal. You may have the right to review and appeal any adverse decisions made about your case. Your specific review and appeal rights will depend on the situation and the legal framework. If you think any adverse decisions have been made it will be important to find out more about those decisions. If you don’t agree with any decisions made about you, you may want to ask for those decisions to be reviewed. Your legal adviser and your rehabilitation consultant can help with this aspect.
  1. What are my obligations if I agree to participate in vocational rehabilitation?

Along with rights you also have obligations. Although these can remain unstated, they usually involve positive expectations for how you will participate in vocational rehabilitation. They may include the following specific obligations:

    • To Participate Actively. This means to be available as much as possible when needed to attend appointments. It also means trying to complete any agreed actions or homework to the best of your ability. It also means letting people know as soon as possible if you are unable to attend an appointment or unable to complete a task for any reason.
    • To Provide Accurate Information. This means only providing accurate information about yourself and your circumstances. If you are unsure of any specific information about you, try to make this clear to the person seeking this information. Do not provide shortened or simple answers to questions if a more detailed answer would be more accurate. Also encourage any stakeholder working with you to document the more accurate answer, not just a simplified version to save time. If you feel unwilling to reveal sensitive information do not reply in a way that suggests you are concealing important information. Instead, you could ask to talk about the sensitive nature of the information being sought and how it will be managed and protected.
    • To Provide Consent. You may be asked to provide verbal and written consent at various stages during your rehabilitation. Do not sign consent forms or give verbal consent if you are unsure to what exactly you are consenting. If you need help to understand a document ask for a copy to take away and seek help from a legal adviser, advocate or family member.
    • To Provide Feedback. This means you are expected to raise issues and problems as soon as you become aware of them. This is important because if you do not raise issues early enough, help to overcome or avoid those problems cannot be provided. The rehabilitation consultant will be relying on you to provide feedback and report your progress in planned activities on a regular basis. It will be important for you not to gloss over challenges and difficulties, and to let that person know as accurately as possible about your experiences. If you benefited from the assistance you received positive feedback would also be appropriate.
  1. Will I get a say in the types of vocational assistance that may be offered to me?

Yes. Normally the person receiving vocational rehabilitation has the final say on what assistance is actually provided. Although it may seem like you do not have a choice when assistance is first offered, if you have any concerns that the proposed assistance is too much or too little, it will be important to discuss this immediately with your rehabilitation consultant.

 


 

Dr Geoff Waghorn, Brisbane, ORS

Dr Waghorn has 24 years’ experience as a Registered Psychologist and 23 years in research. He is one of the leading experts on vocational rehabilitation including Individual Placement and Support (evidence-based supported employment) within Australia and internationally. To date Dr Waghorn has contributed to over 120 peer reviewed research publications. Most of his research has focussed on improving the recovery and social inclusion of individuals living with disabilities and health conditions.

In 2014 Dr Waghorn entered into the Disability Employment Australia Hall of Fame for his significant contribution to improving the lives and experiences of people with mental illness seeking employment. Dr Waghorn’s expertise includes an ability to simplify complex information and research to ensure that it can be practically applied in the real world. Geoff is a passionate advocate of open employment for people living with disabilities and severe mental illnesses who want to work. He has challenged low expectations in society with questions such as “show me the evidence that this person cannot work given the right support and a suitable job match