The Royal Commission on Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disabilities (Royal Commission on Disability) last week focused on service providers from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), hearing allegations of abuse and mistreatment at a Sydney group home.
The following story contains descriptions of physical violence
The Royal Commission on Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of Persons with Disabilities (Royal Commission on Disability) last week focused on service providers from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), upon hearing allegations of abuse and mistreatment at a Sydney group home.
The investigation focused on a shared accommodation case study, featuring a non-government service provider for people with disabilities, Sunnyfield.
The Commission heard from Melissa, Carl and Chen *, three residents of the purpose-built house who were involved in separate incidents with two support workers (referred to as SP1 and SP2).
Chen’s family reported unexplained bruising on her thigh around July 2018, while Sunnyfield reportedly attempted to evict Melissa after her legal guardian and sister, Eliza *, filed several complaints about the conduct of Sunnyfield staff.
Eliza was a witness at the Royal Commission and provided evidence of the mistreatment of her sister.
The inquest heard that Eliza had been concerned from mid-2017 about incidents in the shared house, including Melissa breaking her finger, bruising around her eye and a head injury.
Eliza has filed several complaints with Sunnyfield and other agencies, including the New South Wales (NSW) Ombudsman, and told the Commission that the group home has a “culture of blame”.
âYou can’t bring up an issue without someone being offended,â said Eliza.
Eliza also told the survey that she turned to 13 disability service providers to find another home for Melissa, but there was nothing suitable as she needed a kitchen. locked.
Sunnyfield and Eliza have gone through a mediation process and Melissa remains in the group home.
Complaints and Concerns Rejected into “Culture of Cover-Up”
Carl’s mother Sophia * also provided evidence and spoke at the hearing about two incidents where her son was injured, one where he had to be hospitalized after his eye was opened and the other where he came back from a bloody outing.
“I can only imagine how Carl would have felt at those times when all of this was happening, when there was no mum or dad, no one else in sight to see what was going on and who he could call. “Sophia said.
Sophia filed a formal complaint and the police charged the two support workers.
SP1 has faced charges relating to incidents involving Carl and Chen, including common assault and criminal harassment / intimidation.
He was then charged with assault causing actual bodily harm for allegedly kicking Chen.
SP2 has also faced assault charges against residents, including one charge following a staff complaint to the watchdog.
However, all charges against SP1 and SP2 were dismissed by a court magistrate due to a lack of evidence.
The two support workers were then made redundant by Sunnyfield in late 2019 and early 2020.
Although the two support workers have been made redundant, Sophia told the inquest that she still does not think Carl is safe at home.
âIt’s a culture of cover-up, I’m sorry to say that, because we are told stories that are smoothed out so that we don’t react so badly,â says Sophia.
“I think we don’t really know the truth, and that’s what concerns me.”
Sunnyfield home described as ‘dysfunctional’, ‘suspicious’ and ‘divisive’
An independent investigator, Jennie Piaud, has been appointed by Sunnyfield to review complaints against the house in 2019.
Ms Piaud told the Commission that the house was in “crisis” and called the culture “suspicious and divisive”.
âIt should be one of the most dysfunctional workplaces,â Ms. Piaud said.
The disability support service provider admitted to the Commission that it failed to protect the three residents.
A report by Sunnyfield CEO Caroline Cuddihy described the behavioral pattern of the two support workers, including “staff bullying, racism, bullying, deception, flight from office, no -respect of customer schedules, [a] concealment, forgiveness of laziness [and] falsify records “.
Ms Cuddihy admitted Sunnyfield failed to protect the three residents and accepted responsibility for the violence and abuse they suffered.
She also admitted that she did not meet with the residents’ families and did not apologize to them before testifying before the Royal Commission.
When asked about Sunnyfield’s hiring process and the hiring of one of the support workers, Ms. Cuddihy described him as a âcon artistâ.
âWe deeply regret having employed him and deeply regret his actions,â Ms. Cuddihy said.
“I wish to express my regret and deep sympathy for the pain and distress suffered as a result of the events.”
The public hearing was the first of several Royal Commission hearings examining how disability service providers prevent and respond to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.
The next Royal Commission hearing kicks off June 7 in Adelaide.
The hearing will focus on evidence relating to two specific case studies that detail recent experiences of people with disabilities using supported accommodation services provided by the South Australian Department of Social Services.
The Royal Commission will also consider what has been learned since the death of Adelaide’s disabled wife, Ann-Marie Smith, to help protect other people with disabilities.
* The names of witnesses have been changed