A recent report from the state of Victoria (Australia) about the incidence of abuse of the elderly and disabled people in state-run facilities paints a disturbing picture of neglect and a lack of respect for people in care.
The Age article says that 'reports of abuse inside residential facilities and hospitals for the diabled and mentally ill surged 37% to 287 last financial year.'
The organisation known as 'Community Visitors' who look at such facilities on behalf of the Public Advocate cited physical attacks such as punching in the head and a broken leg amongst a litany of other concerns.
Public Advocate, Colleen Pearce is calling for an inquiry onto group homes and full reportng of all incidents and allegations of abuse and neglect. "Abuse and neglect of people with disability is completely intolerable, and even more so when it is committed, overlooked or ignored by those entrusted with their care,"said Ms Pearce.
Samantha Connor, Board member of People with Disability Australia and an administrator of the Disability Clothesline responded by creating an online petition directed at Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott MP, asking for a 'national inquiry into violence, neglect and abuse against people with disability in residential and institutional settings.'
The petition reads:
Every day, Australians with disability are assaulted, neglected, raped and abused in institutional and residential settings.
Charges are rarely brought against perpetrators and when they are, people are often unable to testify because of their vulnerability. There is a chronic lack of national data available and violence and abuse is gravely underreported.
Three days ago, a report was released in Victoria - http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/neglect-abuse-in-vic-housing-facilities/story-fn3dxiwe-1227063232583 - detailing the latest raft of abuse issues in Victoria. Large organisations like Yooralla have been in the media yet again following charges being laid against a senior manager. http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/new-sex-abuse-scandal-rocks-yooralla-as-senior-employee-charged-20140523-38sip.html
The Coroners findings in each state are littered with the stories of deaths of people with disability from abuse, neglect and entirely preventable causes.
More than a quarter of rape cases reported in Australia are reported against women with disability and people living in institutional settings are many times more likely to be raped or assaulted than others.
We call upon the Australian government to take urgent action, launch an immediate national enquiry and address the violence and abuse experienced by people with disability living in residential and institutional settings.
You can sign the petition HERE.
When considering the admission that the numbers of reports are likely to be 'the tip fo the iceberg' and given that staffing and training in these care facilities should mitigate against such abuse, we are left to consider how likely the abuse of the elderly and the disabled in private homes or in places without professional staff is ever likely to be uncovered and stopped.
In Victoria alone, reports to Seniors Rights Victoria in 2012-2013 numbered close to 1700, with 40% of these being cases of financial abuse.
See also: Getting Away with Murder
If you need help or think someone you know is being abused, call Seniors Rights on 1300 368 821 or the National Disability Abuse Hotline on 1800 880 052, TIS: 13 14 50, TTY: 1800 301 130, NRS: 1800 555 677