Who broke the law?
Critique exposes deficiencies in Community Visitors report
The 2013-14 Community Visitors Annual Report as recently tabled in Parliament is shown by Max Jackson and Margaret Ryan to be a document with significant deficits.
As stated by Public Advocate Ms Colleen Pearce in her introductory message to the report, the observations and issues detailed in the report provide “an early warning system” highlighting where sector change is needed to protect and empower people who reside in disability residential facilities.
Yet, despite this lofty intent, Max and Margaret contend, in their critique of the Annual Report that, “Although the report states there are significant and fundamental breaches of the Disability Act 2006, it baulks at specifying the exact nature of the breaches of the law and does not name the entities which have broken the law. Nor does it take the Department of Human Services to task.”
Further, “The report fails to provide quantitative data where it could reasonably be assumed that such data would be available and should have been provided. The lack of such data weakens the so-called early warning system.”
“Although the Community Visitors Board, which includes the Public Advocate, has the authority under the Disability Act to refer matters at any time to the Minister, the Secretary of the Department of Human Service, the Office of the Senior Practitioner, the Disability Services Commissioner or the Ombudsman, the report makes no mention that this has ever been done,” they stated.
While the report calls for “a formal independent inquiry into abuse and neglect in group homes”, the report provides no evidence to suggest that the Community Visitors Board has used the provisions of the Disability Act to refer matters. JacksonRyan noted that despite the seriousness of the allegations of neglect and abuse which the Community Visitors Board describes “systemic”, the Board seems content to hold this matter over until the publishing of the Annual Report.
Max and Margaret also criticise the report on the basis that comment is provided in relation to only three of the eight functions assigned to Community Visitors under the Disability Act 2006. Particularly, the report makes no comment on the use of restrictive interventions and compulsory treatment, and the role the Senior Practitioner has in this area, despite the report having raised concerns about co-locating clients with challenging behaviours with vulnerable clients.
Community Visitors have been in operation since the 1986 Intellectually Disabled Persons’ Services Act, and their functions were reinforced with the introduction of the replacement Disability Act 2006. Given this, JacksonRyan state, “It is a sad indictment that after almost 30 years of visiting residential services, the Community Visitors program, and by association the Public Advocate, have had so little impact in pursuing the deficits identified in this Annual Report which includes a number identified in previous Annual Reports.”
25 September 2014
Contact: Max Jackson, Mobile 0413 040 654. Margaret Ryan, Mobile 0412 409 610