VIC Prevention of Abuse and Neglect
The disability sector is full of people committed to improving the lives and championing the rights of people with disability. Like the vast majority of people engaged in disability service provision, NDS takes a zero tolerance approach to the abuse and neglect of people with disability. Claims of abuse or neglect should be taken very seriously and, where there is reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct, the claims should be referred to the police.
The key questions are how to prevent abuse and neglect and how to respond when they occur.
'Freedom from abuse and neglect' has been incorporated into the disability standards used by most jurisdictions and is explicit in the draft of the revised National Disability Standards for Service Providers. All jurisdictions have in place procedures and guidelines for managing and reporting incidents of abuse, neglect and exploitation.
The appropriate management of incidents is only one part of the solution. Creating an organisational culture that maximises control and choice for people with disability, encourages people to speak out, and recognises complaints as being an integral part of providing a quality service is also essential. Prevention and early intervention strategies are critical to creating a culture where people with disability are heard, their rights upheld and better service outcomes are delivered.
Knowledge about good evidence-based practices exists. NDS is committed to working with all stakeholders - service providers, people with disability and their advocates, families and carers, researchers and disability service commissioners - to disseminate and expand this knowledge and promote evidence-based practice in the sector.
Effective organisational strategies often incorporate the following:
- careful staff selection and induction, recognising that attitudes and values are often more important than formal qualifications in preventing abuse and neglect, but also recognising that attitudes and values can be reinforced by training in human rights and person-centred practices.
- sound complaints policies and procedures, including a whistleblower policy, and a systematic approach to risk management (identifying situations where people could be vulnerable to abuse or neglect)
- building an organisational culture focussed on person-centred approaches. One review of current approaches to abuse prevention in disability accommodation services noted: "In the context of preventing abuse and neglect, the importance of control and choice cannot be understated for people with intellectual disability".
Resources are available to assist organisations to both prevent and respond to the abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability. These publications may be useful:
- 'IGUANA' - an Interagency Guideline for Addressing Violence, Neglect and Abuse (Office of the Public Advocate, Victoria, 2013)
- Learning from Complaints: Safeguarding people's Right to be Free from Abuse (Disability Services Commissioner, Victoria, 2012)
- Preventing and Responding to the Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with a Disability (PDF 364KB, Department of Communities, Queensland, 2011)
In addition to state and territory-based mechanisms for reporting allegations or incidents of abuse of people with disability, service providers are reminded that individuals can make complaints to the National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline on 1800 880 052.