Calls for an inquiry into disability sector abuse

An Illawarra disability provider has moved to quell fears about the abuse of people in care, following shocking revelations a Victorian provider ignored warnings its clients were being sexually abused.

A joint Four Corners and Fairfax Media investigation revealed  management at one of the country’s biggest disability providers, Yooralla, bungled the handling of abuse and rape allegations against two male employees.

Those men went on to rape and sexually abuse disabled clients.

The investigation has sparked calls by advocacy groups for a national inquiry into abuse and neglect of people with disabilities in institutions, which has gained the backing of the Australian Greens.

On Tuesday, The Disability Trust executive manager Matthew Martin said he was ‘‘shocked and angered’’ by the mismanagement of abuse allegations aired by the Four Corners report.

He said he was confident the abuse was not occurring in the Illawarra, despite the fact a Horsley carer was jailed last year under strikingly similar circumstances.

‘‘I’d like to provide families and carers in our region with some confidence to know that we’ve got excellent providers, not just The Disability Trust,’’ Mr Martin said.

‘‘[They can] feel confident that isn’t occurring and that we’ve got the policies and procedures, training and reporting mechanisms in place to ensure that that doesn’t happen.

‘‘We all work very diligently to ensure the best possible care and safeguards are in place, but quite obviously looking at [Monday] night’s report you can never be complacent about it.’’

Daniel Thomas Mooney was jailed for 11 years in December 2013, after he sexually abused two vulnerable, disabled patients at Unanderra’s Marco Polo nursing home in 2010 and 2012.

According to the police facts, the first incident in October 2010 was reported to the head nurse on duty and to the home’s senior management but was not reported to police.

This was disputed by Marco Polo manager Robert O’Shea following Mooney’s conviction, who said no staff reports had been made  prior to October 31, 2012.

Mooney was suspended that day pending an investigation.

Marco Polo management indicated it was unable to respond to the Mercury’s requests for comment on Tuesday, as Mr O’Shea was overseas.

Combined Pensioners & Superannuants Association of NSW senior advisor Charmaine Crowe supported calls for an inquiry, citing the need for greater transparency in the sector.

‘‘As long as organisations fail to report suspected abuse and neglect, abuse and neglect will continue in institutions housing vulnerable people,’’ Ms Crowe said.

‘‘We have no idea how widespread this problem is because there is such poor transparency in the aged and disability care sector.

‘‘As a nation, we should be ashamed that some of our most vulnerable are being let down by the system.’’

Ms Crowe said Australia should mandate staff-resident ratios or install CCTV in disability and aged-care institutions.

Public Service Association south-east regional organiser Tony Heathwood said that with  privatisation of disability services,  organisations would be less likely to report allegations of abuse ‘‘because it would damage their reputation and position in the market’’.