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Snapshot reveals cracks in disability support

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Disability advocates are disturbed but not surprised by the large numbers of reports of abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with a disability in NSW over the last year. IMAGE: Freepik/jcomp

Reports to NSW hotline reveal extent of abuse, neglect

Catholic leaders and disability advocates have expressed dismay that the state’s first ageing and disability commission received information about 2200 cases of abuse, neglect and exploitation in just 12 months.

In its first annual highlight snapshot the commission revealed that out of 10,000 calls to its hotline it had handled more than 3800 matters with nearly two-thirds of those relating to abuse, neglect and exploitation of adults with a disability and older people.

The most commonly reported allegations for older people were psychological and financial abuse, while for adults with disability it was psychological abuse and neglect. Approximately 75 per cent of the reports to the commission related to older people, mainly older women.

Leading the commission is lawyer Robert Fitzgerald who told media that “everyone has the right to live free from abuse and we all have a role to play in making that happen”.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP said it was quite disturbing to learn that the commission had received so many reports of abuse and neglect in its first year. 

As Catholics, we are called to respect the fundamental dignity of each person, all loved as children of God,” he said. We must do all we can to protect the most vulnerable in our community and ensure they can live safe and secure lives. 

Deputy national leader of 
L’Arche Australia Claire Lawler said that the organisation was “appalled” to see the NSW statistics. We believe every person has a right to feel safe in their environment,” Ms Lawler said.  

She said that 
L’Arche strongly supported the 
statement from the Australian Human Rights Commission recognising the “inherent value of each person, regardless of background, where we live, what we look like, what we think or what we believe…based on principles of dignity, equality and mutual respect”.

L’Arche believes very strongly in treating others fairly and having the ability to make genuine choices in our daily lives,” she said. “Respect for human rights is the cornerstone of strong communities in which everyone can make a contribution and feel included”.
At Sydney’s Ephpheta Centre for the deaf and hard of hearing Liz McDowell manager of Business and David Parker manager of Community said they were not surprised at the high number of serious complaints.

They said the centre had helped many deaf people to overcome “wide-ranging” types of abuse including psychological abuse and neglect.

“We know from the experiences of many deaf people in our community that many people with a disability are often ‘left behind’ and their rights overlooked,” they said.

“The level of abuse experienced by people with a disability as shown by the report from the commission, together with the experiences being reported by the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, highlight the need for urgent action to be taken by all people to support people with a disability.

“Many families and institutions work very hard to give people with a disability the support and dignity which they – the same as all other people – have the right to receive.
“But sadly, many people with a disability do fall in between the cracks and this is when abuse and neglect happens.”
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