28 March 2023

In February, Ability Options attended hearing 32 of the Disability Royal Commission and reflected on the key themes that were heard, and the lessons providers are taking from the hearings.  

Hearing 32 of the Disability Royal Commission (DRC) was held during February 2023 and looked at the actions that providers had taken since they were called at previous hearings, together with issues relating to the tragic death of a young boy in the care of a different provider following a report on the ABC. 

Counsel quizzed CEOs on whether the actions promised had been completed and how policies were being improved. Challenging questions were asked about apology, action, policy development and implementation, accountability and redress. 

Counsel heard extensive evidence, giving providers an opportunity to have open dialogue and redress some of the shortfalls participants experienced in their services. These are salutary lessons and ones we are considering very carefully as to how we respond.  

The hearing began by examining whether providers’ policies and practices prevent violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability and deliver high quality and safe services. 

During the hearing, Counsel heard evidence and accounts from people with disability and those with lived experience with provider services and from CEOs from organisations that had been called before or had serious incidents, to see what they had done to improve and address these. 

Ability Options has been attending the hearings with the goal to hear the experiences and key themes told to the Commission, and to use those to help keep the organisation as up to date and reflective at Board level as possible. There was a real and unmissable focus on how decisions affecting people with disability are made and how much choice and control they have over their lives. 

To sum up the key topics discussed at hearing 32, we heard:  

  • Negative commentary regarding a lack of attention to participant-to-participant violence by providers, and the lack of control and engagement of people with disability in choosing who they live with;
  • About the lack of constructive engagement with, and listening to, families by providers;
  • Examples of an inability or unwillingness of providers to apologise unequivocally when things have gone very wrong;
  • The lack of formal advocacy arrangements for participants, particularly in accommodation services; 
  • The absence of relevant training undertaken by Board and CEO/Executives which influence the overall organisation’s development;
  • The lack of proactive prevention of, continuous learning from, and evidenced action arising from, serious incidents on the part of providers; and
  • A lack of any redress, particularly in reality, but also in policies. 

Provider accountability and acknowledgement were the focus of the enquiry in a panel on day four of the hearing, regarding the tragic death of 11-year-old participant, Alex, in 2018.  

A report from the ABC’s 7.30 detailed these events and a subsequent report on the ABC website detailed an apology from the provider.  

The story of Alex, and others, is hard to hear. The impact on Alex was catastrophic and the impact on his family heart-breaking. I am sure that those who cared for Alex felt enormous sadness and are weighed down by the tragedy. I do think that such terrible stories have to be told to ensure we all learn from them and prevent them happening again 

More generally, the DRC is helping providers like us to understand the impact of negative experiences on our participants, acknowledge that, redress these issues as best we can, apologise, and help navigate the way forward, so participants can continue to receive high quality support that will enable full choice and control of their lives. 

At Ability Options, we are making sure that our policies, procedures and practices are reflective of the key themes arising from the hearings as they happen at Board level, which will cover every aspect of our service delivery.  

As the Disability Royal Commission’s hearings continue, we will keep you all updated on any precedents that inform us as an organisation and the greater sector at large.  

Ability Options plays a critical role in caring for and supporting people from all walks of life. You can learn more about our Child Safe, Participant Rights, and Management of Incidents and Complaints policies on our website here.

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