TAFE & Adult Provision Disability royal commission calls for action

Australia’s biggest-ever investigation into the abuse and exploitation of people with disability recently handed down its findings. The Royal Commission, which is the highest form of public inquiry, undertook an extensive review into violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with a disability. Launched in April 2019, following many years of campaigning and advocacy, the inquiry ran until 28 September 2023, with the final report delivered to the Governor-General.

Over the course of the inquiry, almost 10,000 people shared their experience of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation by making a submission, attending a public hearing or participating in a private session. The Commission heard from people with disability, their families, support people, organisations and the broader community.

The Commission found that people with disability experience much higher rates of violence than people without disability. They also experience violence more frequently, with the rates of violence particularly high for women with psychological or intellectual disability, First Nations women with disability, and young women with disability.

The evidence showed that neglect of people with disability occurred in many different ways and across all stages in people’s lives. In some cases, the level of neglect or deprivation led to the deaths of people living with a disability, as well as many instances where people with disability were deprived of the basic necessities of life and assistance with daily activities.

It found that the NDIS Commission has the best chance of helping disability service providers and recommended creating a guide and policy inclusive of supported decision-making, with a view to helping providers understand how to support people with disability to make their own decisions.

Unsurprisingly, in response to the evidence, the Royal Commission made 222 recommendations on how to improve laws, policies, structures, and practices to ensure a more inclusive and just society that supports the independence of people with disability and their right to live with dignity, equality and respect, to be able to take risks, develop and fulfil their potential, and live a life free from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

The Royal Commission recognised that there is not one organisation designed to support all disability service providers, but that many providers are part of the NDIS.

It found that the NDIS Commission has the best chance of helping disability service providers and recommended creating a guide and policy inclusive of supported decision-making, with a view to helping providers understand how to support people with disability to make their own decisions.

The Commission also recommended that the Australian government develops a plan for registering disability support workers across the nation, helping to ensure that workers who support people with disability have the right skills and qualifications, and can successfully sustain their employment in the sector. The Commission recommended that the government do this before July 2028.

The above recommendations come with a cost attached, and the government is already facing significant costs associated with the NDIS. However, the Commission’s analysis of the abuse and maltreatment of Australians with a disability reveals that the economic cost of these wrongdoings is estimated at $46 billion a year, with 43,000 people with disabilities not participating in the workforce due to neglect and 23,000 young people with disabilities not completing Year 12 because of low expectations and bullying.

Moreover, the emotional, physical and behavioural cost to people’s lives is devastating and requires immediate action that best supports people with disability, their carers, the organisations, and you – the workers who support them.

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