16th Reintegration Puzzle Conference

Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre
1-3 March 2023

Changing Seasons,
Changing Lives

Forensic Disability and Mental Health: Complexities, Capabilities, and Competencies

It is widely recognised that the justice system’s responses to mental health and disability are often fragmented and siloed. Forensic mental health social workers (FMHSW) work with people at the complex intersections of the mental health, disability, and criminal justice systems. Social workers in this context play a key role in promoting person-centred and integrated approaches to client treatment and care, and advocating for consumer rights, while also managing risks and community safety. Despite its complexity, little attention has been given to the specific skills and attributes required for FMHSWs to undertake this work effectively and ethically. To address this gap, the Social Work Service at Forensicare (the state-wide provider of forensic mental health services in Victoria) is developing a competency and capability framework for FMHSW practice. This work is informed by the broader context and recommendations of the Disability Royal Commission and the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System. This paper discusses the development process and the framework, emphasising the competencies and capabilities for collaborative practice with consumers, families, carers and stakeholders to improve access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), and bridge the boundaries between the criminal justice, mental health, and disability sectors.


Julia Douglas
Forensicare (Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health)

Julia is a social worker with 25 years’ experience working in direct service delivery, management, practice development and policy in both government and community sector organisations. She is an advocate for evidence-informed approaches to policy, practice and service development, and committed to improving outcomes for people with complex needs.  Julia is currently a Clinical Social Work Educator at Forensicare, the state-wide forensic mental health service for Victoria

Louise Gallagher
Forensicare (Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health)

Louise is the Lead Social Worker, Prisons Services for Forensicare, the state-wide forensic mental health service for Victoria. Louise has 16 years’ prior experience working in disability services, including eight years at the Victorian Disability Forensic Assessment & Treatment Service. Louise is committed to supporting people with a disability and mental health condition to access the same standard of health and mental care in custody as in the community.