Process over people in disability care, says ombudsman

By David Donaldson

January 12, 2016

Process is being placed before people in some of Victoria’s disability services, the state’s ombudsman Deborah Glass argues.

Deborah Glass
Deborah Glass

Glass writes in The Age that the ombudsman uncovered many instances of abuse of people with disability during investigations into over 400 incidents in the disability care sector. She writes:

“What we found was a culture where process appears to be prioritised above the needs and human rights of people. The reporting of allegations of abuse in the Victorian disability sector seems to be characterised by absence and fear.

“The absence is that of the person who should be at the heart of an incident of potential abuse: the person with disability. And the fear is that experienced by people with disability, their families and workers in the sector, about the implications of reporting suspected abuse.”

The agency’s investigation began a year ago and was delivered in two phases, with the second report tabled in Parliament in December. Glass continues:

“We found an oversight system so fragmented, complicated and confusing that even those who work in the field have difficulty understanding who is responsible for what. Imagine then, the challenge for people with disability.

“The current incident reporting system fails at every level. It relies on a paper-based tick box form that must be faxed to a government department. Crucially, the voice of the person at the centre of the incident, the individual with disability, is absent.

“What does it say about our attitude to the abuse of people with disability that technology as archaic as the fax machine lies at the crux of the system that is meant to protect so many vulnerable Victorians from harm?”

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