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Report Uncovers Shocking Abuse and Neglect of Adults With Disability


Monday, 5th November 2018 at 5:29 pm
Luke Michael, Journalist
Widespread abuse and neglect of adults with disability has been uncovered by the New South Wales ombudsman, with appalled disability advocates now calling for an independent public advocate to protect vulnerable people.


Monday, 5th November 2018
at 5:29 pm
Luke Michael, Journalist


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Report Uncovers Shocking Abuse and Neglect of Adults With Disability
Monday, 5th November 2018 at 5:29 pm

Widespread abuse and neglect of adults with disability has been uncovered by the New South Wales ombudsman, with appalled disability advocates now calling for an independent public advocate to protect vulnerable people.

The ombudsman’s office responded to 206 reports of alleged abuse and neglect of adults with disability – involving family members, partners, or other members of the community – between August 2015 and October 2018.

A report from a two-year ombudsman released on Friday detailed shocking cases of abuse, including a mother who used cable ties, a dog leash and sheets to tie her daughter with an intellectual and physical disability to her wheelchair and bed.

In another case, a young man with a psychosocial disability living with his father was found in filthy, cockroach-infested accommodation that housing officers said was the worst they had ever seen.

NSW ombudsman Michael Barnes said the inquiry identified many highly vulnerable adults living in atrocious circumstances, who suffered abuse and neglect by those they should have been able to trust.

“The case studies show that horrendous abuse is occurring in family homes and other community settings in NSW that needs to be addressed,” Barnes said.

As the inquiry is only a temporary measure, which ceases on 1 July 2019, the report called for a comprehensive safeguarding approach in NSW to protect vulnerable groups in the community.

Barnes said the establishment of an independent public advocate is needed to investigate suspected abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults, and address gaps the inquiry is unable to address – including elder abuse.

Council for Intellectual Disability (CID) CEO Justine O’Neill said she was appalled by the findings, and agreed an independent public advocate was needed.

“We support the creation of an independent statutory body with power to investigate the abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with intellectual disability,” O’Neill said.

“With proper safeguarding measures in place, this body should also have the authority to enter premises and require people to answer questions and provide documents.”

But O’Neill emphasised that disability advocacy was still required, noting that this authority would complement rather than replace community advocacy.

“Community advocacy enables people with disability to become leaders within their communities, and allows them to have a voice,” she said.

Therese Sands, the co-CEO of People with Disability Australia (PWDA), told Pro Bono News she also found the report disturbing, but was not surprised.

She welcomed the ombudsman’s recommendation for a public advocate, while also renewing the sector’s calls for a royal commission into violence against people with disability.

“This report provides further substantial evidence of the widespread level of violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability in our community, and how few people with disability can get any kind of support or justice,” Sands said.

“PWDA believes that this is yet more evidence of the urgent need for a comprehensive, national royal commission into violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability that covers the broad range of settings in which people with disability live.”

Sands also warned that looming cuts to independent disability advocacy in 2020 would make it harder for people with disability to speak out against abuse.  

She said the cuts would mean many people with disability would no longer have support to disclose and respond to violence and abuse when it happened.

“There will be no advocacy to progress long term, systemic solutions to reducing and preventing this kind of abuse from ever happening,” she said.

Ray Williams, the NSW Minister for Disability Services, told Pro Bono News the state would not tolerate the abuse people with disability.

While he did not commit to any specific recommendations from the report, he said the government was always open to considering additional measures that enhanced community safety.

“I have instructed Family and Community Services to review the NSW ombudsman special report… and provide advice on its findings in the shortest possible time frame.”


Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.


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