Response to Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass’ article in the Age published 12th January 2016
Tuesday’s article in The Age (‘Shocking’ abuse of Victorians with disabilities) by the Victorian Ombudsman, Deborah Glass, highlights the immense challenges around the abuse of people with disabilities and rightly calls on all parts of the disability sector to fully appreciate the impact of abuse on people with disabilities. We need to take action to not only improve systems and processes around abuse, but most importantly, change the culture in the disability sector that allows this to happen. Families and service providers must both be supported to play a key role in this culture shift.
As the National Disability Insurance Scheme increases the number of service providers in the market, it is more critical than ever to ensure that our culture is moving to protect people with disabilities from harm and abuse – not as a mere matter of risk management, or quality, or safeguards, but as a matter of human rights.
Service providers must be seen as part of the solution, and to be supported to develop better processes and change their organisational cultures so that workers are similarly empowered to identify and report incidences of abuse without fear and drive out those behaviours and practices which put people with a disability at risk.
It is also essential for children with disabilities and their families to be empowered with the confidence, information and support to ask their service providers and paid carers the confronting questions around abuse so they can make the best choices about where to spend their support dollars.
They will also require the ongoing support of independent advocacy organisations to build their understanding about their rights and options, both in terms of preventing abuse, and making complaints when things go wrong. Families continue to tell ACD how important having independent support and advice has been in helping them continue to seek to uphold their child’s human rights.
ACD is committed to working with families and service providers to change this culture, and are currently developing new resources to help families build their skills to confidently address these issues with their service providers, and to put in place a system of safeguards that will work for them and their children. We are also pleased to be doing this in collaboration with organisations such as NDS, VALID and Scope, to ensure that all parts of the disability sector – participants, families and service providers – are part of the solution. We look forward to sharing these new resources with you in mid-2016.