The Royal Commission News - Edition 28 was sent on 14th February 2022 addressing the hearings in 2021 and insights from the RC reports. The Royal Commission is in its last full year and so anticipates a very busy schedule to allow Commissioners to present a comprehensive Final Report, due in September 2023. Fourteen hearings will occur in 2022 and closing dates have been set for submissions (31 December 2022) and private session registration (30 June 2022).
Themes from the Disability Services hearings
Disability services were the focus of three hearings in 2021, all considering case studies within shared accommodation. Questions from the Royal Commission went to how organisations respond to abuse, incidents and complaints; how they value communication and relationships with service users and families; how information flows through organisations; and whether the choice and voice of people with disability are valued.
Several questions have arisen from the hearings, which all disability services should be asking themselves. Some questions include:
- When decisions are made, is the focus the organisation’s interests and reputation, or service users’ interests?
- How do the views of people with disability affect how you provide services? Are people with disability represented throughout your staff?
- What principles, guidance, frameworks and training inform decisions your organisation makes to balance dignity of risk with the duty of care?
- What is your organisation’s attitude to feedback and complaints? Do you have a culture of a positive, or defensive response?
- Are service agreements treated with seriousness, kept up to date, and do they reflect both provider and service user expectations?
- Where might your blind spots be regarding the identification of red flags and how this information travels through the organisation?
- Do you take responsibility when things have gone wrong? Do you apologise, offer to meet with service users and families and provide further support? Do you facilitate access to legal support and advocacy?
As an organisation we pride ourselves on the principles of how THC delivers services – ongoing engagement, a focus on the needs of each person and listening – and our number one strategic objective, to deliver quality services, which we are passionate about.
Our values are also held front of mind to hold us accountable in how we act every day: Respect, Integrity, Social justice, Social inclusion, Passion and Effectiveness. At the Board level and internally we have also have processes to report and monitor on quality and risks and an ongoing focus on continuous improvement. We recognise that we can never be complacent.
Royal Commission Reports
Fifth Progress Report
The report covers the period 1 July to 31 December 2021, which included eight hearings, 401 private sessions and 878 submissions. It acknowledges apologies given by service providers in the first and second disability services hearings, and highlights key issues raised in the third: whether adequate steps were taken to prevent abuse, organisational responses to resident-to-resident violence, and how governance and culture may have affected services provided.
Some insight is given into private sessions:
- A more proactive approach has been taken by the RC, partnering with advocacy organisations to facilitate private sessions for people with disability, mainly living in segregated settings such as group homes. It notes 16 sessions were held in such environments during the reporting period; 42 have been held to date.
- 27.9% of accounts involved an existing relationship between the person with a disability and the alleged perpetrator
- The vast majority of accounts of complaints said a satisfactory outcome was not reached
In addition, submissions raised issues in the NDIS – difficulty in access and appeals, and inadequate funding – as well as how Covid-19 restrictions have impacted access to supports.
A report on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout hearing contains 17 findings and seven recommendations, and suggests that the vaccine rollout has been ‘seriously deficient'. The Australian Government responded by accepting six recommendations and ‘noting’ the others. The report asserts three main issues in the rollout as: failure to seek advice from people with disability, workers, and providers; lack of transparency in decision-making; and failure to provide accessible information.
A hearing report on inclusive education in NSW and Queensland found that in both government school systems: reasonable adjustments provision is mainly left to educators’ discretion and insufficient progress has been made in addressing the lack of restrictive practices regulation. The RC intends to hold a hearing on special education in 2022.
2022 Hearing Schedule
The current hearing schedule for 2022 is as follows:
- 23 to 25 February: People with disability engaging with DES (hearing scope is available)
- 10 March: Barriers to open employment (oral submissions)
- 28 Mar to 1 April: Women and girls with disability (Part 2)
- 11 to 13 April: People with disability working in ADEs
- 28 April: Disability services - hearing 20 (oral submissions)
The Housing Connection will be undertaking a re-registration audit in August 2022. So far, we have been delighted in the previous two external audit to receive no non-compliances and hoping for this a third time.
Each year we have an internal audit schedule to check on how we are doing against the practice standards. Our focus is not just on compliance but on best practice.
For a number of years, we have struggled with how to create an effective pathway within the organisation for people we support to feed into operational review processes and to the Board. A few years ago, the ‘Client Representative’ role ceased. This was usually 1 or 2 people nominated at the AGM to be a conduit to the Board of Directors. The role ended up not continuing as there were no volunteers and some dedicated participants needed a break. We are currently looking at a process to have regular participant input into the organisation and to feed into the Board. I will keep you posted!
We rely on and welcome your feedback and input around the supports for those you care for via your team/s of staff, team leader , and to feed into our operations and strategy.