Disability Sector Needs ‘Fundamental Change’ On Oversight of Services
Thursday, 24th November 2016 at 11:17 am
Victoria’s disability services commissioner has called on the disability sector to make “fundamental changes” to the way it addresses the endemic issues of abuse highlighted in a recent parliamentary inquiry.
The call came as the Victorian Government committed to strengthening the powers of the Disability Services Commission (DSC) to investigate matters of abuse, assault or neglect in disability services.
The government’s response to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Abuse in Disability Services was released on Wednesday. The report was tabled in May 2016 and found widespread abuse in disability services and made 49 recommendations for reform.
The inquiry was set up to look at why abuse was not reported and how it could be prevented. It heard evidence of abuse from physical and sexual assault, verbal, emotional, and financial abuse, as well as neglect and that physical violence towards people with disability was normalised and predators had been employed to work in residential services.
The government said there would be “a zero tolerance approach to abuse of people with a disability with a range of measures in response to [the] parliamentary inquiry”.
It agreed to introduce a code of conduct which includes training the workforce to better recognise, prevent and report abuse and strengthening the disability services system as part of Victoria’s transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
The government’s response includes the roll-out of a new client incident management system to facilitate information sharing on the safety of clients as well as a $1.5 million investment to support people with a disability accessing advocacy services.
The government has also accepted a number of the inquiry’s recommendations that relate to powers of the disability services commissioner including:
- commencing legislative work to allow for own motion investigation powers
- mandatory reporting of incidents to DSC, including referrals of abuse and neglect, by the Community Visitors Board
- establishing a memorandum of understanding with the Coroner to review deaths that occur within disability services
- an annual review of deaths in disability services
- developing a protocol between Victoria Police and DSC to clarify roles and processes around the investigation of complaints and allegations of abuse and neglect.
The Disability Services Commissioner Laurie Harkin AM said the expanded oversight and new powers for DSC reflect the need for fundamental change in the sector to address the endemic issues of abuse highlighted in the parliamentary inquiry.
“These same issues have been highlighted by DSC over time including in a 2012 paper titled Safeguarding People’s Right to be Free from Abuse,” he said.
“My office has seen a threefold increase in the past two years in the number of complaints received that relate to allegations of abuse, assault and neglect.
“While this increase is more likely to reflect a growing understanding and reporting in the sector of what constitutes abuse rather than an increase in the number of incidents, it nonetheless represents an ongoing issue that must be addressed by all involved in the disability sector.”