Sector News — 02 April 2014

Hundreds of disabled Victorians have reportedly been abused by their carers,  with allegations this year of serious sexual assault and chemical restraint of  mental-health patients.

Leaked state government documents obtained by Fairfax Media have revealed  there were more than 300 reports of disability services staff assaulting clients  between July 2012 and December 2013.

Also in the past year the Office of the Public Advocate received hundreds of  calls alleging abuse, neglect or violence against vulnerable people.

A staff member has been accused of slapping mental-health patients across the  face and an autistic woman with anxiety has been allegedly sexually assaulted in  a disability facility.

Twenty of the ”most serious” cases were referred to Public Advocate Colleen  Pearce, who said the organisation was beginning to see a better response from  some services.  ”A zero tolerance to abuse, neglect and violence is needed,”  she said.Disabled person in wheechair

Disability Justice Advocacy executive officer Trevor Carroll said he feared  the number of staff to client assaults within the disability sector could be  significantly underestimated, because victims were too scared to come  forward.

In one case reported to the advocacy group, a woman in her 50s was  ”digitally raped” by a staff member while showering in a government-owned  group home.

Mr Carroll said an incident report was made after the woman told another  worker what happened, but that report was later rewritten by a supervisor. He  said the worker who allegedly raped the woman was then transferred to another  home and the matter was not referred to police.

In 2012-13, the Department of Human Services received 1790 category one  incident reports in disability services, up 5 per cent from the year before. New  data from 2013 also shows the number of these serious incidents, which include  death, serious injury and serious sexual or physical assault, are likely to rise  again this year.

Minister for Community Services Mary Wooldridge said these increases could   be attributed to a change in reporting.

”Following a March 2011 Ombudsman’s report that highlighted Labor’s failures  in addressing the abuse of disability clients in state care, the Coalition  government introduced a range of new measures,” she said. ”One of these  measures was a significant strengthening of the incident reporting and  accountability system. As a consequence, there has been an increase in the  number of incident reports, with allegations that never would have come to light  under Labor’s inadequate system being reported and addressed.”

The minister said any allegations of assault were referred to both police and  the Disability Services Commissioner.

The Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with Disability  said they were  not confident that DHS ”has a strong handle on the level of staff to client  abuse”.

Opposition community services spokeswoman Jenny Mikakos said the push by Ms  Wooldridge to have disability services run privately would only exacerbate  problems.

This article first appeared on ‘The Age’ on 1 April 2014.


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