Abuse, assault and neglect on the rise in disability housing, report shows

HUNDREDS of disabled Victorians have been assaulted and left languishing in hospitals, with many others suffering unexplained injuries that go unreported.

In one case, a disabled woman who could not speak spent almost three days with broken legs before she received appropriate treatment.

Community Visitors - who inspect accommodation for the disabled and the mentally ill on behalf of the Public Advocate - later attended Kew Residential Service and discovered the resident had head lice, diarrhoea and no mattress to relieve the pressure on her broken limbs.

In another case, a paraplegic living in disability accommodation in the Grampians almost had to have her leg amputated due to ''poor manual handling practices by staff''.

The Community Visitor's annual report, which was tabled in State Parliament yesterday and documents these cases, shows reports of abuse, neglect and assault in mental health, disability and supported housing services have more than doubled in the past three years.

It reported 183 cases of abuse, neglect and assaults, up from 110 the year before.

The Department of Human Services annual report, also tabled in Parliament yesterday, revealed 439 incidents of category 1 assaults in Victorian disability services last financial year, up more than 10 per cent from 396 the previous year.

But Public Advocate Colleen Pearce said the number of assaults that occurred in state-funded care was considerably higher.

''We believe there is an under reporting of incidents. There is also an ongoing disagreement between Community Visitors and service providers as to the seriousness of issues. We will say this is more serious and should be a category 1 and they will say it's a category 2 or 3.''

She said community service organisations routinely re-wrote incident reports.

In July, The Age revealed that the Department of Human Services recorded 112 cases of alleged ''staff-to-client'' abuse in 2011-12 in government and community managed housing for the intellectually disabled across Melbourne.

Ms Pearce said sexual assaults still occurred and there had been an increase in reports of severe, unexplained injuries. She said the majority of assaults were ''client-to-client''.

A forensic physician quoted in the report said: ''It is hard to see how such severe injuries could have gone unwitnessed and unrecorded.''

Ms Pearce said disabled people were left languishing in hospitals, despite being fit to leave.

A healthy man with an intellectual disability spent more than nine months in a Victorian hospital because there was nowhere else for him to go, according to The Office of the Public Advocate's annual report.

It said the man's lengthy stay in hospital cost more than $200,000, or $700 a day.

The man was admitted to hospital after police responded to a dispute at his family home.

A medical assessment revealed the man had no mental illness and was ready for discharge eight days later.

But the Department of Human Services was unable to find suitable accommodation for the man, who had a history of violent behaviour, so he remained an inpatient in an acute medical ward for more than nine months.

''When we can't get services for people, whether that's a guardian or finding them accommodation, the cost to the community of them remaining in hospital is very high. We need greater accommodation for people with disabilities,'' Ms Pearce said.

Ms Pearce is also calling for new powers for the Public Advocate to investigate allegations of abuse and is also calling for workplace training about what abuse is and standardised anti-abuse policies.

Minister for Community Services Mary Wooldridge said work was under way to address issues in the report including staff training to help identify, respond and prevent abuse.

Opposition disabilities spokeswoman Danielle Green said the system was struggling to cope. ''When viewed alongside the Disability Services Commissioner's annual report, which also showed a 22 per cent increase in complaints from people in the disability system, the signs are clear that the Baillieu government is heading in the wrong direction with disability services.''

hcook@theage.com.au

from http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/abuse-assault-and-neglect-on-the-rise-...