National Counselling and Referral Service - Disability - We need to share some important news with you about the NCRS.
The National Counselling and Referral Service (NCRS) operated by Blue Knot Foundation has closed. The last day of the service was Sunday 31st December and we are so sorry this is happening. It is not what we want, and we understand how difficult this may be for many of our callers. At the end of this article, we provide some other options we hope will provide you with the support you need after 31st December 2023.
Why is the service closing?
The NCRS was set up to support people engaging with or impacted by the Disability Royal Commission. It is closing because the Disability Royal Commission has ended and funding is also ending.
To everyone who contributed to the Royal Commission, a very big thank you goes to you for your role in improving the lives of all people with disability. There have already been some early changes as a result of your courage, persistence and determination.
Where can you find support after 31st December?
We know that our callers will find it hard that the NCRS will not be able to provide support after Sunday 31st December, but there are other options.
If you do want to speak to a trauma counsellor, you can call the Blue Knot Helpline on 1300 657 380 AEST/AEDT. This service is for people with experiences of childhood trauma and operates 9am-5pm x 7 days/week.
If you are in crisis or need urgent support, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
If you live with disability, you can find more services and information at the Disability Gateway via www.disabilitygateway.gov.au or call
1800 643 787 between 8 am and 8 pm AEST/AEDT Monday to Friday.
What about the Royal Commission?
The Disability Royal Commission ran for 4 ½ years, with hearings conducted across all States and Territories. It heard from close to 10,000 people – received close to 8,000 submissions, held 1,785 private sessions and published 14 Issues papers. The Commission listened and heard and as a result made 222 recommendations and those recommendations are sitting with government.
The Commission’s final report sets out a vision for a more inclusive Australia for the one in six Australians living with disability, in which people with disability live free from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation; where human rights are protected; and individuals live with dignity, equality and respect; and can fulfil their potential.
It was the culmination of disability advocates, people with disability, their families and carers fighting to have their experiences listened to and their rights upheld.
The final report issued 222 recommendations in 12 volumes, and a staged and thoughtful response will be required.
To immediately begin work on responding to appropriately triaging the report’s recommendations, the Government has established a Commonwealth Disability Royal Commission Taskforce to work across departments and agencies to coordinate the Australian Government’s response to the recommendations, engaging closely with the disability community.
National Counselling and Referral Service
It has been a privilege for Blue Knot to operate the NCRS. Not only have we been grateful for the way in which people from the disability community have engaged with us, but we have been incredibly moved by the ways in which our callers have responded to our support.
Not only have we had the privilege of supporting people with disability with trauma experiences, but we have also provided counselling sessions to inmates in Correctional Centres around the country. A big thank you to everyone who has opened their hearts to provide some of the most meaningful feedback we have ever received. Rest assured that we will continue to reflect on the difference we have been able to make in this short time.
We understand that this service ending will affect many of you, our callers, especially those of you who have found the emotional support provided by our counselling team invaluable. We are just so sad that we won’t be able to continue to provide this support through the NCRS service beyond December 31st.
How many callers has the NCRS supported and in what way?
As at 31st October 2023, the NCRS had supported over 8,000 individual clients. Because many callers to the service chose to remain anonymous, we supported far more people than this but are unable to provide the exact number of clients we did support.
While the vast majority of people engaging with the service are people with disability with experiences of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation, some are carers, support workers, advocates, health practitioners and agencies.
Up to 31st October we provided 43,568 Occasions of Service which included 17,728 counselling calls and 4,840 referrals. Since February 2012, a large part of our work has been supporting inmates in Correctional Centres nationally. During this time, we have provided 2,883 booked counselling sessions of up to 45-50 minutes to 856 inmates, from 4,893 booked sessions.
It is challenging to deliver services into Correctional Centres and many are cancelled for one reason or another. However, the booked sessions have been some of the most significant work our counsellors feel they have undertaken. This is matched by the feedback we have received from inmates and the testimonials we are collecting.
There is little doubt that there is an enormous need for a trauma-informed counselling service in Correctional Centres, evidenced by the rapid growth in the number of interactions from 200-300 a month growing to 800-1000 per month. As the service draws to an end, we continue to collect invaluable data from our Correctional Centre work which will inform an Evaluation of the service in partnership with the University of Queensland. We anticipate the release of the Evaluation Report in the first half of 2024.
“I am so glad I got through to you. And that I can always get through to you. I feel different now. I don’t know what I would have done otherwise, there’s not many options here and sometimes you just act out”
“I’m proud of the submission I had made to the Disability Royal Commission and am so glad I told my story. I had lots of counselling and I feel like this process has been so empowering by allowing me to understand myself better and not to think of myself as a victim.”
“In speaking with BKF, I feel for the first time throughout my prison lagging, that I am speaking with someone who is non-judgemental, doesn’t harbour prejudice against myself & prisoners generally & know doesn’t have a vested interested between their self & the other prison staff. with the prison staff. I’ve had regular counselling sessions with counsellors in prison & found them all harbouring the above-mentioned qualities despite what they say. I have found the staff at BK to be sincerely & highly professional. It has helped me to speak more freely & I feel validated & heard for the first time.”
“The sessions with blue knot provide a space to be able to know what I am really thinking and feeling. It’s about my growth. There is no emotional growth outside of here. I am not able to do that safely outside of these sessions. I am very different out of here, very guarded, very cautious, very protected. I do learn things from the process – it gives me the confidence to speak in other forums…..I would really like to do things differently, it’s too late for me….I would like to do good…to make a difference for others…”
“I have felt good in expressing all that to you and thank you for reflecting back to me who I am. It feels like I am free in this room despite where I am. If you could see me – I am tethered to this table with handcuffs. And when I finish (… this session …) there are 5 doors I will be escorted through back to my solitary confinement. But I have just been free for an hour.”
Disability Royal Commission
Submissions to the Disability Royal Commission have closed. To find out more about the Commission visit the Disability Royal Commission’s website.