Royal commission: Disability sector to come under spotlight

UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT: Sad, worrying cases of neglect and abuse in the disability sector will be heard during the royal commission, LiveBetter's Chris Rawlins says. Photo: FILE
UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT: Sad, worrying cases of neglect and abuse in the disability sector will be heard during the royal commission, LiveBetter's Chris Rawlins says. Photo: FILE

CENTRAL West residents should be prepared to hear “sad, worrying cases of neglect and abuse” in the forthcoming royal commission into the disability sector.

The federal government has agreed to establish a royal commission to inquire into violence, abuse and neglect of people with a disability.

There are a number of disability providers across the Central West, with LiveBetter and Challenge Community Services among those to welcome the commission.

LiveBetter chief customer officer Chris Rawlins said they operate a number of services across the region including disability accommodation, day programs and short-term accommodation.

He said he was not surprised that a royal commission had been announced and said it came following “growing concerns” in the sector during recent years.

“We will hear of sad, worrying cases of neglect and abuse,” he said.

IN FOCUS: The disability sector will come under the focus of the royal commission. Photo: FILE

IN FOCUS: The disability sector will come under the focus of the royal commission. Photo: FILE

Mr Rawlins said, however, that he expects the commission will lead to a higher quality of service and standards across the sector.

“It should provide a clear explanation of how service providers should be focused,” he said.

Mr Rawlins said any complaints received by LiveBetter from clients, staff and the community were handled in a transparent way with independent oversight.

We will hear of sad, worrying cases of neglect and abuse.

LiveBetter chief customer officer Chris Rawlins

Challenge Community Services operate 13 facilities across the Central West and spokeswoman Chrisna Nieuwoudt said the focus on aged care during that royal commission has brought a renewed focus to the disability sector.

“Like all sectors, there are always a few who will bring the rest of the sector into disrepute,” she said.

“It started in 2015, a Senate inquiry found issues of violence and abuse against people with disability, and strongly recommended holding a Royal Commission, and in 2017, over 160 civil society groups and over 100 academics joined the call for a Royal Commission into violence against people with disability,” she said.

Ms Nieuwoudt said the vast majority of providers in the disability sector gave “quality support to people with disabilities and their families”.

National Disability Services (NDS), Australia’s peak body representing non-government disability service providers, also welcomed news of the royal commission.

“We are committed to continuing what we started more than five years ago, to embed zero tolerance approaches to disability abuse in all disability service organisations,” acting chief executive officer David Moody said.

We know that people with disability are 1.5 times more likely to experience abuse, neglect, violence and exploitation than people without a disability.

National Disability Services (NDS) acting chief executive officer David Moody

“NDS and our members across Australia will look forward to supporting the ryal commission in the development of its terms of reference and subsequent inquiry.

Mr Moody said NDS led an initiative called Zero Tolerance in partnership with the Australian disability sector.

"This is our national approach to promoting human rights and preventing and responding to abuse, neglect, violence and exploitation experienced by people with disability,” he said.

“We know that people with disability are 1.5 times more likely to experience abuse, neglect, violence and exploitation than people without a disability.

“We support a royal commission because we understand that people with disability, like everyone else in our community, have the right to live free of the fear of abuse or neglect.”

NDS is the peak body for more than 1000 non-government disability service organisations and is the only organisation that represents the full spectrum of disability service providers across Australia.

Glenray Industries did not respond to Australian Community Media's request for comment for this story.