The Disability Royal Commission is holding a hearing this week on “preventing and responding to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation in disability services”.
The 5-day hearing starts today and will focus on a case study involving the experiences of people with disability who live in a group home in western Sydney operated by a non-government disability service provider, Sunnyfield Disability Services.
People with Disability Australia (PWDA) Chief Executive Officer Sebastian Zagarella has called for disability service providers to be held to account.
“There is a need for greater transparency and accountability of service providers in regard to matters of violence, abuse and neglect, and there must be consequences beyond nominal fines for perpetrators,” Mr Zagarella said.
“Service providers may have policies and procedures intended to prevent abuse, but these often involve internal investigations that occur before the police are and may at times go around proper police investigation.”
People with disability have a right to access justice as equal citizens before the law, but in practice, there are many barriers to doing so, including inaccessibility of information and lack of access to adequate support to report incidents of violence to authorities.
PWDA president Samantha Connor highlighted the strong rates of violence experienced by people with disability.
“People with disability experience the same types of violence as non-disabled people, but we experience it at disproportionately high levels, and often in ways that are unfamiliar to mainstream violence response systems,” Ms Connor said.
“When those who care for us are also the perpetrators of violence against us, it can be incredibly difficult to get the support we need to access mainstream services, which are rarely accessible to disabled people, including police, justice, counselling and sexual assault services.”
PWDA strongly supports a phasing out of congregate living situations, such as group homes and hostels, where essential services and housing are provided by the same company.
Segregated housing systems for people with disability, where providers have exceptional control over residents’ day-to-day activities and how they live their lives, is a recipe for abuse and neglect, and unfortunately, people who need high levels of day-to-day support often find themselves without other options in the current market.
With this week’s Royal Commission hearing focusing on a group home run by Sunnyfield Disability Services, the Australian community is likely to see the some of the systemic problems with congregate living situations brought to light.
PWDA strongly advocates that people with disability have a right to choose where they live and who they live with, like anybody else in the community, and should have access to the support they need to live independently.
For more information please contact:
Senior Policy Officer, PWDA
Mobile: 0431 998 273