Expand Menu Close Menu
Telephone: 1800 677 342

Statement regarding the abuse of people with a disability

Hand with the word 'stop' displayed on the palm

2nd February 2018

Recent reports in the media have drawn public attention to the ongoing issue of abuse, assault and neglect of people with a disability.

The abuse of people with a disability is completely unacceptable.

Our work confirms that people with a disability experience abuse and neglect within the disability sector. In the 2016-17 financial year DSC received 254 in-scope complaints. Of these, 25 percent related to allegations of physical and sexual abuse. This is an increase of 19 percent since 2013-14. During this period, we finalised 16 investigations relating to abuse and neglect matters, 13 of which were justified. We have investigated cases ourselves where families notice issues of concern such as signs of bruising or changes in behaviour in family members who have limited communication.

In our review of 1,060 critical incidents occurring in disability services in the 2016-17 financial year, a total of 356 incidents were related to allegations of staff-to-client physical or sexual assault.

More needs to be done to ensure that people with a disability are not abused or neglected. This includes:

  • More thorough assessment of risk faced by people with limited communication and intellectual disability.
  • Listening to the person with a disability, and ensuring that a person’s verbal and non-verbal communication is understood.
  • Better collection of data and investment in prevention as well as response.
  • Improved response from all services (e.g. health, disability and justice) in supporting victims of assault who have a disability.

As a result of the Victorian Inquiry into abuse in disability services, DSC now has increased powers to improve the safety and wellbeing of Victorians with a disability. The Commissioner now has the power to initiate investigations into matters of abuse and neglect in disability services.

DSC is also working with the disability sector to prevent abuse from occurring, and to investigate and address abuse when it does occur.

Anyone who may have a concern or complaint or worry about abuse and neglect in a Victorian disability service is encouraged to contact DSC on 1800 677 342.

DSC is committed to working with people with a disability, their family and friends, service providers, and other regulatory bodies to build stronger and safer disability services.

Laurie Harkin AM
Disability Services Commissioner

Level 20, 570 Bourke Street,

Melbourne, Victoria, 3000 Australia

Call for enquiries or complaints - 1800 677 342

Email for enquiries or complaints - complaints@odsc.vic.gov.au