The SA Government has cut the Communication Partner Service in today’s budget, removing the opportunity for people with communication disabilities to have their voice heard and understood in our legal system.
“This funding cut is false economy, removing a very cost effective, volunteer provided service that brings together police, the court system and a NGO community service to support some of the most vulnerable people in our community” said Simon Schrapel, Chief Executive, Uniting Communities.
The Communication Partner Service offers assistance to people with complex communication needs to provide an accurate and coherent account of their experiences in police interviews and court proceedings.
The Statutes Amendment (Vulnerable Witnesses) Act 2015 provided the statutory basis for the establishment of this service which provides independent, trained volunteers to facilitate communication between vulnerable victims, suspects, witnesses and defendants with complex communication needs in and out of court, including assisting Police with their inquiries.
Over the last 6 months, the service has conducted 75 interviews and assisted 43 people including 23 victims of crime. A majority of all offences where the service assisted victims were related to sexual assault involving women and children with complex communication needs. The service has been provided in regional locations as well as Adelaide, including the Riverland, Port Lincoln, Mount Gambier and Victor Harbor. While the service primarily supported people who were victims of crime, people who were witnesses, offenders and suspects were also assisted. A total of 265 hours of service were provided by volunteers over the last 6 months.
“We are calling on the SA government to reverse this poor decision and reinstate funding for the Communication Partner Service, before the volunteers, goodwill and expertise is lost,” concluded Mr Schrapel.
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