Calls for Harsher Penalties for Leaving People with Disability in Hot Cars
18 January 2018 at 4:14 pm
Disability advocates have called for harsher penalties for service providers leaving vulnerable people with disabilities in cars, after reports emerged a person with disability was locked in a vehicle for more than 50 minutes in almost 40 degree heat.
New South Wales (NSW) Ombudsman Michael Barnes said on Wednesday they had received two reports of people with disability being left unattended in vehicles that “could easily have ended in tragedy”.
One of these cases involved a person with disability being locked in a vehicle for more than 50 minutes in 38 degree weather. They were then transported to hospital for distress and the risk to health, after members of the community alerted authorities.
“One of my responsibilities is to educate the community about what is required of disability service providers in their treatment of clients,” Barnes said.
“The community is increasingly aware of the dangers of leaving children unattended in vehicles. However, it is important for people to recognise that this type of neglect can expose vulnerable adults with disabilities to the same risks of dehydration, heatstroke and even death.”
— IDRS Inc. (@IDRS_NSW) January 17, 2018
Tracy Wright, the CEO of the Council for Intellectual Disability (CID), told Pro Bono News it was shocking to hear about these cases of abuse.
“I’m horrified to think that in 2018 this still happens for people with a disability and vulnerable people, that they are in this position and not cared for in the most appropriate way,” Wright said.
“People with an intellectual disability and other disabilities don’t necessarily have the skills or the ability to get out of the car if it gets too hot. I don’t think people sometimes realise that, they think ‘oh they’re an adult’ and they don’t think there’s [an issue].”
Wright said service providers and the general public would benefit from greater awareness of the seriousness of the issue.
“Training and community awareness is required for people to realise how hot a car can get in a short period of time. We hear a lot about this with children and also with pets, but we don’t hear a lot about how adults can potentially be in the same situation,” she said.
“So I think there is a gap in knowledge not just for people providing service but also from a community perspective.”
The CID CEO said disability services workers should face harsher penalties if they continued to disregard safety after they were made aware of how dangerous the practise was.
Thank goodness members of public rang police. Whoever locked the car should be prosecuted. Have they been charged yet? https://t.co/jlEtVFfyOO
— Julie Pianto (@juliepianto) January 17, 2018
“We need to start with education and awareness. But I think if there are people who consistently do this, and are delivering these supports to people with a disability, then there should be harsher penalties,” she said.
“If a child is left in the car, we in the community are horrified… we are even horrified if it’s a pet.
“Now people need to be aware that there’s vulnerable group in our community, and if they are [aware of] this, there should be harsher penalties for people who have received education but continue to act in this way.”
— NSWCID (@nswcid) January 17, 2018
Wright noted that greater community awareness on this issue was necessary.
“I think that any community awareness is important. Both of these reports that have come out are due to people in the community noticing people sitting in the car for quite a long time. So [we need] to raise that awareness.
“But from a service provision point of view, it also should be very much part of the education system for disability support workers when they’re taking people out to access the community.”
The NSW ombudsman called on the public to be vigilant and to take action if they noticed a vulnerable person with disability locked in a hot car.
“Call 000, or if it’s an emergency, take steps to open the vehicle,” he said.