e-Blast: Disability Royal Commission extended to 2023 and Interim Report released

Here are the findings so far.

The Disability Royal Commission has released their interim and summary report on 30 October. The report tables the process so far, key themes and future leads for inquiry into the violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation of people with disability in Australia.

The Commission is mandated to look into cases of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation, and has released nine issues papers to guide feedback. Click here to access the issue papers.

QDN encourages members to read the reports and issues papers that can be found on the Disability Royal Commission website as PDF, Word and Easy Read by clicking here.

  • The Full Report is 500 pages long and provides detailed information.
  • The Summary Report is a shorter summary.
  • There are two easy read documents:  1) Easy Read – An Easy Read Guide 2) Easy Read – What have we heard so far.

It is important to know that the report contains information that may upset you or cause you to experience difficult feelings. If you need to talk to someone about how you feel or need help to deal with these feelings, you can find information about a free help service on the Disability Royal Commission website.

The current issues papers include First Nations People with Disability, Restrictive Practices, Rights and Attitudes, Emergency Planning and Responses, Employment, Criminal Justice System, Group Homes, Health Care for People with Cognitive Disability, and Education and Learning.

QDN is pleased at the decision to extend the Disability Royal Commission to 29 September 2023.  Since 2019, the Commission has undertaken a range of work that includes five public hearings, community forums and 17 private hearings. To date, they have received 1620 submissions, and 468 responses to issues papers. QDN encourages members to engage with the Commission, as a valuable process to share stories, capture experiences and trends.

The purpose of the Commission is to transform community attitudes and bring about changes to policies and practices that have exposed people with disability to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation that denied them ‘full and effective participation and inclusion in society’.

The framework of the Commission is underpinned by the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disability (CRPD) and is driven by the right to live free from violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Recognising the importance of hearing from First Nations people with disability and people with disability from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

In doing so, the Commission has set up the First Nations People’s Strategic Advisory Group, and developed First Nations engagement principles and culturally and linguistically diverse engagement principles. Click here to access the First Nations engagement principles.

The Commission also released the First Nations people with disability issues paper. Acknowledging the importance of a culturally appropriate process and recognising the double disadvantage faced by First Nations people with disability. Click here to access the paper.

A summary of all public hearings can be found in the Interim Report.

The Disability Royal Commission heard a range of specific themes during the hearings. Across all areas, the Disability Royal Commission heard from people with disability that they experience violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation in places where they live, work, learn, play and access essential services like health, justice.

Some of the key things that the Commission heard included:

  • There are people with disability who don’t feel safe in their home, and experience violence, abuse, and neglect where they live in a variety of different settings.
  • The historical shift from institutions and the emergence of group homes, as a place for people to live, created unintended consequences for people with disability.
  • It is important for people with disability to have choice and control over where and with whom they live, who their service provider is and that they can get individualised services if they live in a group home.
  • The experience of violence and abuse in health care settings.
  • The experience of involuntary treatment.
  • The under diagnosis of physical and mental health conditions by health care providers because they relate symptom to a person’s disability.
  • The experience of higher rates of domestic and family violence.
  • The experience of their children being removed.
  • Exclusion from community and barriers to participation.
  • Impacts of COVID-19 in people’s lives and being left behind during the pandemic.
  • Challenges in getting and keeping jobs and experiences of the workplace.
  • Challenges with the NDIS and how it is and isn’t working for people.
  • Treatment in the justice system both as victims, offenders, or witnesses.

The Commission has made one finding in the report. It found that although there are examples of excellent care being provided, the quality of health care provided varies.  The evidence demonstrates there has been, and continues to be, systemic neglect of people with cognitive disability in the Australian health system.

Emerging themes and key issues

Chapter 17 of the Interim Report discusses the emerging themes and key issues heard by the Commission. It also provides an overview of the areas that the Royal Commission will examine further.

These include:

  • links between limits on choice and control across all settings and contexts, and the violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation experienced by people with disability
  • how attitudes towards disability can influence violence against, abuse, neglect, and exploitation of, people with disability
  • the impact of segregation and exclusion on the lives of people with disability
  • the impact of restrictive practices on people with disability and the rules and safeguards that should apply to prevent their unwarranted use
  • the role of families, supporters, and advocates in preventing violence against, and abuse, neglect, and exploitation of, people with disability
  • oversight and complaint mechanisms
  • funding structures and the impacts these can have on access to services and supports

The Commission also found that increased advocacy is a key measure to address violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation and would lead to a more inclusive society.

The report highlights that advocacy and representation enable people with disability to have their voices heard at all levels of society; to influence issues of deep concern to them.

Disability advocacy is acting, speaking, or writing to promote, protect and defend the rights of people with disability. Independent advocacy by people with disability plays an important role in implementing and monitoring the CRPD.

The Commission found a lack of advocacy services, including for First Nations people with disability and people with complex needs, and that existing advocacy services are under-funded.

The below comments were taken from participants of the Disability Royal Commission:

“The only strategy I’ve ever seen capable of making a difference is advocacy and self-advocacy, particularly self- advocacy, empowering people to stick up for themselves”. (Quote from person giving evidence at Disability Royal Commission)

“The most important part of the Disability Royal Commission’s work is our engagement with people with disability, their families and supporters. Your contributions will be the heart and soul of this Disability Royal Commission. You are the key to its success.” The Hon Ronald Sackville AO QC Chair

QDN will continue to provide submissions to the Disability Royal Commission as requests and issues papers are released. We welcome any member feedback to support these submissions.

Click here to participate in the Disability Royal Commission, write submissions, respond to discussion papers, attend hearings or to tell your story.

If you are affected by the themes of the Disability Royal Commission and would like some free and independent support, you can call the Blue Knot Foundation on 1800 421 468.

You can also video conference, SMS, and web chat with them. Click here to visit the Blue Knot Foundation website.

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