Victoria’s Disability Service Complaints Hit Record Levels

By Andrew Heaton

(image source: Sanctuary Recruitment)

Complaints about disability services in Victoria have hit record levels as the sector struggles to deal with ongoing issues surrounding alleged instances of client mistreatment.

Releasing its latest annual report, the Disability Services Commissioner says the number of complaints about disability service providers which were made directly to the Commission increased from 209 in 2014/15 to record levels of 272 in 2015/16.

Complaints received by service providers also increased edged up from 2,016 in 2014/15 to 2,034 in 2015/16.

The volume of complaints has now more than doubled over the past eight years.

In 2007/08, 133 complaints were made to the Commissioner and 992 were reported by service providers.

Whilst the Commission says the higher number of complaints reflects greater levels of confidence of people to speak out about their concerns, disability advocates say the figures are alarming.

“PWDA is dismayed but not surprised to hear that the number of complaints about disability support services are increasing,” says Dr Jess Cadwallader, Advocacy Project Manager, Violence Prevention at People with Disability Australia.

“People with disability continue to experience violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation while receiving disability support services and these practices must stop.”

Although the data is showing an increase in complaints, Cadwallader says instances of violence which occur against people with disability is far greater than the number of formal reports which are made.

Also, whilst the number of reports in Victoria was rising, Cadwallader says these are still far fewer in number compared with the number of reports made in New South Wales.

This, she said, demonstrated that there was room for improvement in making sure people with disability have safe access to the violence prevention and response services that they need.

The latest data follows damning evidence about widespread mistreatment of Victorian clients within the state’s disability services sector.

In a damning report released last year, the Family and Community Development Parliamentary Committee found that the sector was marred by widespread instances of violence against those with disability and an intrinsic lack of effective oversight.

Last November, the government responded by outlining 25 priority action steps which it would take.

These included establishing a new registration scheme for the state’s disability workforce, beefing up the powers of the Disability Services Commissioner and amending the Disability Services Act 2006 to incorporate a zero-tolerance principle in the legislation.

Of enquiries and complaints reported to the Commissioner in 2015/16:

  • 41 percent came from a parent or guardian followed by the person receiving services (20 percent), family members (12 percent), staff members (8 percent) and service providers (5 percent).
  • 41 percent related to shared supported accommodation followed by individual support packages (16 percent), day service (14 percent), case management (9 percent) and respite (9 percent).
  • Service quality (48 percent) was the most common issue raised followed by communication quality (41 percent) policy and procedure (37 percent), staff related issues (25 percent) and group supports (24 percent).

Note: the data outlined in the bullet points above relates only to complaints raised directly with the Commissioner, not those raised through service providers.Housing Finance

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