Mother recalls disability home allegations

Ethan James

The mother of a man living at a NSW residential care home for people with a disability has described the shock of listening to evidence about his alleged abuse.

Sophia was sitting in court in October when she heard details for the first time about the alleged treatment of her son Carl, who is now 24.

"Hearing what the witnesses were saying was probably the hardest thing I could have done," she told the disability royal commission on Tuesday.

"Hearing that (a support worker) has punched Carl, has kicked him, dragged him, pushed a chair over so that Carl can fall off.

"I can only imagine how Carl would have felt in those moments when this was happening. When there's no mum and dad, no one else in sight to see what's happening."

Assault charges against the staffer, who was sacked by the home in 2019, were dismissed by a magistrate due to a lack of evidence, the inquiry heard.

The names Sophia and Carl are pseudonyms for privacy reasons.

The royal commission is this week investigating accusations of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation, focusing on a group home in western Sydney run by Sunnyfield Disability Services.

Sophia said Carl, who was born blind and has autism and a severe intellectual disability, was left bleeding after an incident in a van during an outing with another worker in 2019.

She said she raised the incident with the worker who told her Carl had a behavioural episode because he did not feel like waiting at a red traffic light.

She said the explanation was "a little hard to believe".

Sophia said she made a formal complaint to the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission about Carl's treatment and was later contacted by police.

She told the inquiry she was never interviewed by police investigators and the home has not apologised in person.

Sophia, who moved to Australia in 1998 after leaving Lebanon, was told the same worker made a derogatory comment about the victims of the Christchurch shooting to the effect of "if it was up to me I would have shot them all", the inquiry heard.

When it was pointed out by another worker that Carl was Middle Eastern, he responded "I don't care".

"It still shakes me because, you know, when we gave our son to ... support providers, we were trusting them with his life," Sophia said.

"They are our hands, our minds, they are there to protect them, to look after them, to care for them."

As recently as last week, she said the home was slow in fixing plastic seatbelt coverings that had come off in the van and exposed sharp metal.

"I feel it's a culture of cover-up, I'm sorry to say. We get told stories that are smoothed over so that we don't react as badly," she said.

"We don't really know the truth. That's the thing that concerns me."

Sophia said residents' families and guardians want CCTV installed at the home but Sunnyfield is opposed.

An external investigation found there was a lack of understanding among staff around the importance of reporting allegations of abuse surrounding Carl and another resident, the inquiry heard.

Many felt uncomfortable coming forward and were intimidated by their manager and were worried about job security.

The report also noted workers also had a mixed understanding about what constitutes abuse, assault and neglect.

from https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/7...