"People with disability have a right to be safe from abuse, neglect and exploitation when accessing disability services." This is the view expressed by the Victorian Government’s Family and Community Development Committee in an interim report. The committee is conducting an inquiry into abuse in disability services. It has been prompted by recent, alarming revelations. Stage 1 of the inquiry has already been completed and Stage 2 is now underway. Individuals and organisations are invited to make submissions to the committee about their experiences of abuse in the disability sector.
Scope of the inquiry
The definition of abuse being used by the committee covers physical and emotional abuse, financial abuse and sexual abuse. It also involves neglect, forced treatments and interventions, violations of privacy, and wilful deprivation. Incidents resulting in trauma or death are included as well.
Stage 1 of the inquiry focused on the regulation of Victoria’s disability service system. Its aim was to gather information to develop a quality and safeguard framework that can be applied under the National Disability Insurance Scheme. In Stage 2, the committee is looking into why the abuse of people with disabilities is not reported or acted upon. It is examining the powers and processes of organisations with responsibility for investigating and managing cases of abuse. Ways to prevent abuse are also being considered.
The committee’s interim report was tabled in Parliament in August. It outlines findings from Stage 1 and raises important questions for Stage 2. These include:
- What experiences have people had when reporting abuse?
- What systems do disability service providers have to prevent abuse?
- How do disability service providers respond to allegations of abuse or neglect?
- Should the Victorian Government create a new body to oversee cases of abuse in disability services?
- Should minimum qualifications be introduced for disability support workers?
- How can Victorian disability service providers create a workforce culture that does not tolerate abuse, neglect or exploitation?
Other questions address areas such as complaints processes, mandatory reporting and oversight of restrictive practices. The full list of questions can be found in the interim report and in the Guide to Submissions and Public Hearings. These are both online at www.parliament.vic.gov.au/fcdc.
Submissions and public hearings
Submissions for Stage 2 of the Inquiry into Abuse in Disability Services close on Friday 30 October 2015. They can be made in writing via email or post. There is also an eSubmission form on the Family and Community Development Committee’s website. Anyone wishing to make a submission is invited to respond to the questions in the interim report. There is no requirement to answer all the questions.
It is important to note that submissions to the inquiry are made public unless otherwise requested. People can ask for their submissions to be kept confidential or for their names to be withheld. A helpline has been set up for those making submissions. It is available every day from 8am to 11pm. To contact the helpline, freecall 1800 819 817 or text 0427 767 891.
From late September, the inquiry will be holding public hearings. These will be in Melbourne and in regional areas. The committee usually selects people or organisations who have made written submissions to present at these hearings. People can also request to speak at them. Details of the hearings will appear on the committee’s website.
Confronting but important
Speaking up about abuse can be very confronting. But it is through people and organisations speaking up that the committee can learn more about what is happening. The whole goal of this inquiry is to improve the system and prevent the abuse of people with disability. It also seeks to develop better processes for reporting and investigating abuse if it does occur.
The committee is right. People with disability do have the right to be safe from abuse, neglect and exploitation. Anyone who can help ensure this right is protected is encouraged to do so.
For more information about the inquiry or to make a submission, please go to www.parliament.vic.gov.au/fcdc.