Disability Groups Renew Call for Abuse Royal Commission
28 March 2017 at 8:44 am
Disability groups have renewed their call for a royal commission into violence against people with disability after the office of the NSW Ombudsman confirmed it had begun an inquiry into the operations of not-for-profit organisation Lifestyle Solutions.
Claims by ABC Four Corners report, Fighting the System, on Monday night revealed evidence of the violence and abuse against people with disability in Australia and the centre that provides group housing for people with disabilities.
Disabled People’s Organisations Australia (DPO Australia), described the report as “only the tip of the iceberg”.
“More evidence has come to light that supports the case for a royal commission. It is only a royal commission that has the weight, the investigative powers, the time and resources to open the doors to the many ‘closed’ institutions and residential environments, and expose Australia’s shameful secret,” the director of DPO Australia Therese Sands said.
“People with disability are routinely denied access to justice, both at a civil and criminal level because of law, policy and practice barriers. A royal commission would give space and recognition to people with disability to tell their story, to be believed, and would enable some measure of accountability and justice.”
The Office of the NSW Ombudsman has confirmed to Pro Bono News that it is investigating the operations of the disability support organisation Lifestyle Solutions after receiving a number of complaints from parents and former staff.
The deputy NSW ombudsman Steve Kinmond told the ABC: “These were people with significant health challenges. They needed to have thorough health assessments… I could give a lengthy explanation but let me put it simply. The practice was unacceptable.
“We saw enough evidence of significant matters that should not have taken place. To draw a line in the sand and to say we need a broad practice review of the operations of Lifestyle Solutions.”
The 2015 Senate Committee Inquiry into violence and abuse against people with disability in institutional and residential settings found that violence and abuse was prolific and hidden. The central recommendation of the committee was the establishment of a royal commission.
The federal government ruled out a royal commission in its response to the Senate inquiry earlier this month. The government said that it was addressing violence and abuse against people with disability by establishing the Quality and Safeguarding Framework for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
Dr Jessica Cadwallader, violence prevention manager at People with Disability Australia, a member of DPO Australia said: “While the Quality and Safeguarding Framework is welcome and very important, it will not protect all people with disability, only those who are NDIS eligible. It appears to be largely based on systems and responses that the Senate Inquiry found to be inadequate.
“A royal commission has a critical role to play as Australia undertakes national changes to disability supports and services. It would also address the scale of violence and abuse against people with disability, its many forms and the broad range of services and settings where it occurs.
“It would have the resources to examine the adequacy of systems, processes and accountability mechanisms designed to put an end to the appalling rates of violence and abuse against people with disability.”
The federal opposition said it was deeply concerned by the violence inflicted on people with disability revealed on ABC’s Four Corners program.
“It is totally unacceptable that incidents of sexual and physical abuse have occurred and that perpetrators may still be working in the disability sector,” the shadow minister for social services, Jenny Macklin said.
“The evidence of abuse of vulnerable people with disability should shame us all.”
A statement from Lifestyle Solutions newly appointed CEO Andrew Hyland said: “We are deeply saddened by these matters and realise the impact on families and other people we support.
“The majority of matters have been the subject of extensive reviews by relevant regulatory bodies. Where shortcomings were identified, the findings have informed improvements in our policies and procedures. Some of the matters referred to remain the subject of regulatory review and it would therefore be inappropriate to speculate on findings.
“I was appointed as the new chief executive of Lifestyle Solutions in November last year. Five of our seven directors were appointed from October 2014, including Mrs Karen Woodford a former chief investigator with the Employee Performance and Conduct Directorate of the NSW Department of Education.
“As an organisation, we continuously review and implement advancements to strengthen our policies, procedures and management frameworks to deliver the best services possible.”