A COURT support service for people with a cognitive impairment is calling for new volunteers throughout the Central West.
The Justice Advocacy Service (JAS) supports people with a cognitive impairment who have come in contact with the NSW criminal justice system - including witnesses, victims, suspects and defendants - to exercise their rights and fully participate in the process.
Justice advocate Carla Whitehouse said having someone to advocate on your behalf was a very powerful thing.
She said the service uses an individual advocacy approach by arranging for a support person to be with the individual when they are in contact with police, courts and other legal representatives.
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The service operates in Bathurst, Cowra, Mudgee, Orange and Lithgow, and other areas throughout the Central West.
Ms Whitehouse said JAS was a free service available across NSW that works alongside people with cognitive impairment to promote and protect rights.
Accroding to the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions Act 1990 (NSW), cognitive impairment includes intellectual disability, borderline intellectual functioning, dementia, acquired brain injury, drug or alcohol related brain damage and anyone on the autism spectrum disorder.
People utilising the service do not need NDIS funding to get help from JAS, nor does JAS need formal confirmation of a cognitive impairment for people to utilise the service.
Ms Whitehouse said often cognitive impairment was not obvious and the generosity of volunteers working in the program enabled the team to reach far more people across NSW then it otherwise could.
"[The volunteers'] impact in supporting justice for people with cognitive impairment in NSW is enormous," she said.
Ms Whitehouse said the service would love to hear from people with an interest in advocacy, who are able to undertake training and become advocates.
"Given the serious nature of our work and the vulnerability of our clients we have a comprehensive recruitment process to ensure the work is right for people and equally important ensure our clients are getting the best possible support and help."
She said the beauty of the volunteer program was people could commit as little or as much time as they had, and JAS provides a through training program.
"Our volunteers range from retirees, professionals, university students to stay-at-home parents and we provide comprehensive training, induction and ongoing support," Ms Whitehouse said.
She asked anyone interested in volunteering to call her on 0456 177 315.
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