This procedure provides guidance for collaborative work between youth justice and disability services, including the provision of court advice in both children's and adult jurisdictions.


When to use this procedure

When providing case management and supervision to a young person registered with disability services.


What else you need to know


Practice context and legislation

  • Youth justice and disability services are both responsible for providing services for some young people.
  • Young people registered with disability services and involved with youth justice often have complex needs that require flexible and collaborative responses.
  • The main focus of disability services is to improve the lives of Victorians with a disability through supports that enhance people's independence, choice and participation in community life.
  • Understanding the characteristics of young people with a disability who have offended will help to determine how disability services and youth justice can best meet the needs of these young people.
  • Young people on youth justice orders are involved with youth justice on an involuntary basis, having been directed by the courts or the Youth Parole Board to receive supervisory services.
  • Involvement with disability services is voluntary and therefore young people must consent to receive these services and programs.
  • Section 571 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 provides the legislative basis for the court to request a plan of service from disability services. Section 80 of the Sentencing Act 1991 provides the legislative basis for the court to request a justice plan from disability services.
  • The Disability services and youth justice protocol and guideline 2009 provides guidance relating to the collaboration between these two services.
  • Because of inherent differences in practices between statutory and voluntary services, collaborative practice is critical.
  • To enhance working relationships between the two services it is important that workers share engagement strategies and knowledge about individual areas of expertise. Workers from both services must demonstrate a commitment to joint work and collaborative practices to maximise outcomes for these young people.
  • To provide the best outcomes for young people with a disability, strong, collaborative work between disability services and youth justice will:
    • enhance each program's understanding of its roles and responsibilities
    • improve communication and service coordination
    • provide information about how to access services or supports
    • improve approaches to working with this target group.
  • A young person with a physical or an intellectual disability on a youth justice community based order, or in youth justice custody, may have an allocated worker from disability services.
  • When working with a young person invovled with multiple services, workers from both services should use the Disability services and youth justice protocol and guideline 2009.

Roles and key tasks

Case manager

  • Establish if the young person is already registered with disability services.
  • If necessary, refer to disability services for an assessment.
  • If court has requested a plan of services, or for young people already working with disability services, establish contact with allocated disability service case manager and clarify involvement in the case.
  • Consult with disability services worker, share information as appropriate, and ensure consistent information is incorporated into reports.
  • Work collaboratively with care team to develop and implement client service plan.

Team leader / team manager

  • Provide consultation and supervision to case manager.
  • Consult on dispute resolution where required, and in consultation with youth justice senior practice advisor.

Assistant Director / Manager Individual and Family Support

  • Provide oversight, direction and monitoring of the area youth justice service.

Youth Justice Senior Practice Advisor

  • Provide case consultation, particularly in relation to high-risk young people. This should occur subject to local area agreements between Assistant Director / Manager Individual Family Support and the Senior Practice Advisor.

The procedure in detail

Determining status with disability services

If a young person attends court and it appears to the court advice worker that they may have an intellectual disability, youth justice should find out if the young person is already registered with disability services.

Contact Disability Access and Response on 1800 783 783.

Disability Client Services is the operational unit that provides case management and related services such as planning and support to registered young people.

'Disability services' refers to a range of other programs, including accommodation, specialist treatment programs, together with programs funded by disability services and run by the non-government sector.

Disability Client Services is the gateway to disability services.

If the young person is not currently involved with disability services, and if the young person consents, youth justice can request a referral for assessment. This can be done through Disability Access and Response.

The process for establishing a young person's status with disability services is the same in both the children's and adult court jurisdictions.

However, if a young person appearing in the children's court appears to have an intellectual disability, the court must request an assessment from disability services.

In the adult jurisdiction the discretion to request an assessment rests with the magistrate or judge.

Prior to court and at court (children's court jurisdiction)

When a young person with a registered disability has been charged with an offence or is attending court, it is good practice for the allocated disability services worker and area youth justice worker to make contact with each other to clarify their involvement in the case.

For young people involved with both disability services and youth justice, youth justice should:

  • advise disability services of court dates and details
  • attend court with the young person
  • liaise with the young person's legal representative
  • prepare a progress report (if appropriate)
  • prepare a pre-sentence report if requested to by the court.

Jointly with disability services, youth justice is also responsible for:

  • ensuring that information, including reports, are shared as appropriate
  • discussing and agreeing upon departmental advice to be provided to the court
  • making arrangements to assist the young person to get to court.

When the court requests a pre-sentence report, both youth justice and disability services must provide specified reports and plans. The court must make it clear that it is requesting a report from both services. The disability services report is known as the plan of service. The plan of service report is always accompanied by a client overview report.

Before attending court, workers from both services should discuss the content of prepared reports to ensure information is consistent.

In the adult court jurisdiction

Youth justice has similar responsibilities when a young person with a disability, or suspected disability, attends the magistrates', County or Supreme Court.

In the adult jurisdiction the report requested by the court, to be provided by disability services, is called a justice plan.

Youth justice may be requested to provide the following:

  • general advice regarding youth justice
  • youth justice centre suitability assessment – pre sentence report
  • assessment for supervised bail or deferral of sentence.

Community based dispositions

Once a young person has been placed on a youth justice community based disposition, youth justice and disability services should meet within a week to allocate tasks and responsibilities and to explain the conditions of the order to the young person.

The youth justice worker can seek advice from the disability services worker as to the best way to convey the information to the young person in a way they will most likely understand.

Case management and supervision

Youth justice is responsible for the supervision of the young person's community based order.

The disability services worker should be identified under the 'relationships' tab on Client Relationship Information System (CRIS). The 'dual order' check box, on the 'case' page, should also be ticked.

Youth justice case management of a young person with a disability should be flexible and take into consideration the young person's capabilities.

Give thought to the benefits of outreach as a strategy to develop and maintain engagement with the young person.

If a plan of service or a justice plan is attached as a special condition of the young person's court order, disability services is responsible for monitoring and reviewing this plan.

The disability services worker maintains ongoing communication with the youth justice worker in relation to the young person's compliance with the recommendations of the plan.

Disability services will inform youth justice if the young person is not participating in services recommended in the plan of service or justice plan.

As directed in the joint protocol, youth justice will arrange a meeting with all stakeholders, including disability services, within two weeks of the commencement of the young person's order.

Regular meetings with disability services should take place throughout the order, and the youth justice worker should keep disability services updated throughout the assessment and case planning process.

As appropriate, the worker from disability services should be invited to all care team and planning meetings.

Youth justice precinct services

When a young person with a disability is placed on a youth residential or youth justice centre order, or on remand, youth justice precinct staff should call a meeting with disability services and the young person within the first week of the young person's admission.

This meeting will be an opportunity for the disability services worker to provide information about existing programs and supports and comment on the most appropriate behavioural management plan for the young person during their time in custody.

The Senior Disability Advisor is a position jointly funded by youth justice and disability services to support young people with a disability within a youth justice precinct setting, and should also be involved in this process.

In the case of sentenced young people, the area youth justice and disability services workers should be included in all planning and review meetings in order to develop and consolidate the best plan for the young person upon release from custody, whether this is on parole or remissions.

For young people who are newly arrived to remand, it is best practice for the area to allocate a youth justice worker to assist youth justice precinct planning and provide area-specific information.

Pre-release planning and parole

The young person's eventual exit from custody should be discussed at all case planning meetings.

For young people eligible for parole, the area youth justice worker will take the lead in the development of the parole plan and will liaise with youth justice centre staff and the disability services worker.

Disability services will contribute a section to the parole plan that outlines supports and services available and any other information relevant to the person's disability.

Youth justice precinct workers will arrange and chair an exit plan meeting, ensuring that all relevant stakeholders are represented.

The parole plan must be signed off by both area youth justice and disability services team managers.

Case management of a young person on parole should take into consideration the same factors as for young people on other community based orders.

The Youth Parole Board will request parole progress reports throughout the young person's period of parole.

When a young person is released on remissions, youth justice precinct staff should arrange a case closure meeting and prepare a case closure report.

This report should be provided to disability services.

Working with families

Young people involved with youth justice, with or without a disability, are more likely to come from families experiencing social, economic and psychological disadvantage.

These families may also have many factors that make them resilient.

It is important to consider the potential benefit of reconnecting a young person with their family where there has been a breakdown in family relationships.

Young people with a disability will have varying degrees of family connection.

Often their family will be a vital source of knowledge, which may assist in developing appropriate support strategies for the young person.

This is an area where collaborative case planning between youth justice and disability services is essential.

Working with young people with a disability who do not receive support from disability client services

There are a number of young people with an intellectual disability who do not currently access services from disability client services.

This may be because the young person does not consent to be referred to disability services or refuses the support being offered.

There are also a number of young people involved with the youth justice service who have a borderline intellectual disability and therefore do not meet the criteria to receive services from disability client services.

These young people will access services much the same as young people without a disability.

The youth justice client assessment and planning process helps to determine the level and type of intervention required to address their needs.

Changing Habits And Reaching Targets (CHART) is also appropriate for use with these young people as it uses simple language, is highly visual, can be delivered at a flexible pace and can be targeted to the level of functioning of the young person.

There are community based non-government and local government services that exist in each area to provide appropriate support and assistance to these young people.

Services include health (including dental) support and targeted recreational programs.

There are additional online resources listed at the end of this practice instruction.

Working with young people with an acquired brain injury

Acquired brain injury refers to damage that may happen to the brain at any stage from birth onwards.

An acquired brain injury may result from a number of causes including head trauma, infection, disease and substance use.

An acquired brain injury can cause a cognitive, physical, psychosocial and/or sensory impairment in young people, which may lead to various restrictions in their lives.

The long-term effects of brain injury are difficult to predict and may vary from mild to profound.

Often young people with an acquired brain injury who are involved with youth justice have support and case management needs that are quite different from people with other types of disability.

For more information about obtaining a neuropsychological assessment, case management, housing, lifestyle support, information and workforce training and development for young people with brain injury contact:

  • BrainLink (External link) – telephone 9845 2950
  • Alcohol Related Brain Injury Australian Services (ARBIAS (External link)) – telephone 8388 1222. Despite its name, ARBIAS offers services relating to all forms of acquired brain injury.

Young people involved with youth justice, disability services and child protection

Some young people may be part of a family experiencing a range of difficulties, requiring the involvement of child protection.

This can be in the form of initial support and contact through to long-term statutory intervention.

From the outset of a young person's youth justice order, it is crucial to establish an effective care team, identifying who will have primary responsibility for all areas of the young person's case management.

This includes including accommodation, health and education, and the required level of supervision.

Senior Disability Advisor

The youth justice Senior Disability Advisor position aims to strengthen the capacity of the youth justice service to support young people with a disability who enter custody.

The Senior Disability Advisor provides secondary consultation to youth justice and disability services staff in relation to:

  • positive behaviour support for young people with a disability who are in a youth justice custodial centre
  • exit planning for young people in custody who have a disability
  • information on community based disability services.

The Senior Disability Advisor is based at the Disability Forensic and Assessment Treatment Services (DFATS) and spends a majority of the week attending the youth justice precincts.

Contact details for the Senior Disability Advisor can be obtained by calling DFATS on 9280 2730.


The Disability services and youth justice protocol and guideline 2009 contains very important advice for all staff when working with young people on dual orders.

It provides information on the characteristics and needs of young offenders with a disability, collaborative work, key stages and responsibilities, resolving differences and detailed information about each service system.

This document will assist both youth justice and disability services workers in the case management and planning for young people on dual orders.