Neglect probes on kids in care - Victoria
Herald Sun, Page 4, Friday, April 1, 2011
By Anne Wright and Grant McArthur
Explosive neglect cases has been uncovered in the child protection sector.
This comes as a supervisor accused of ordering child protection workers to abandon a nineyear-old boy in a park at night has been allowed to remain at work.
An embarrassed Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge was forced to admit the case was one of several involving children in state care now under investigation for neglect or mistreatment.
Ms Wooldridge only learnt of the scandal when it was revealed yesterday, but said she did not believe the Department of Human Services was sweeping incidents under the carpet.
Two workers who left the boy alone at Coburg Park late at night on February 25 have been stood down and are the subject of a police investigation.
Police have told the Herald Sun the workers could face charges of leaving a child unattended.
But the supervisor at the centre of the controversy has been allowed to continue working at the Orana Uniting Care non-government organisation while discrepancies in accounts are investigated.
The workers claim they called their supervisor to ask what they should do when the nine yearold boy didn't want to go back to the DHS unit he was living in, only to be told to leave him there.
They allegedly told police they abandoned the boy on his own, because it was too dangerous for a worker to stay in the park alone.
Ms Wooldridge said the heart of these issues was the use of temporary agency workers, who provide the bulk of Victoria's out-of-home care.
"There is genuine questions about whether they had the training and the expertise and the knowledge to undertake the important work that they do," she said.
"It's absolutely appalling, it's so far from anyone's reality of what good decision-making would be."
Police Association Greg Davies said officers called in by a passer-by shouldn't have had the burden of looking after the child.
Premier Ted Baillieu said an investigation into the case had been launched. "Anyone in control, a guardian, parent or otherwise, of a nine-year-old should not leave that child in the dark," he said.
Home staff sacked in NSW!
Shocking allegations bring swift action and calls
for extended reporting onus
by KIRSTY STEIN The Senior Newspaper Victoria April 2011
Calls for an expansion of the compulsory reporting system have increased after revelations the Aged Care Complaints Investigation Scheme is investigating shocking allegations at a NSW residential aged care facility.
The case, which has already resulted in the sacking of two staff members from Kanwal's William Cape Gardens, comes as the Productivity Commission's Caring for Older Australians report canvassed a relaxation of compulsory reporting laws which were introduced in 2007.
The staff members were allegedly involved in a game in which residents' genitals were photographed and used in a guessing competition.
It was also alleged an elderly resident had been deliberately starved and a dementia patient taunted.
A spokesman for the facility said an internal investigation had been launched within 24 hours of the behaviour being reported on February 6, and two staff members were fired 10 days later. The matter had also been referred to police.
"Although the nature of the allegations were not deemed to be reportable by the Department of Health and Ageing, in keeping with our high standards of responsibility William Cape Gardens also made an immediate formal notification to the department," spokesman Tim Auerton told media.
Aged Care Crisis founder Lynda Saltarelli said the incident, which mirrored a case in Victoria some years ago, pointed to the need for stronger compulsory reporting requirements.
Under the Aged Care Act, providers are only compelled to report assaults which involve unlawful sexual contact or unreasonable use of force on a resident in an aged care home.
Sexual contact does not cover situations where there is no physical contact, so cases like this need not be reported. Neglect also does not fall under compulsory reporting guidelines.
In 2009-10 there were 1488 reportable assaults in Australian residential aged care facilities.
Ms Saltarelli said while compulsory reporting was controversial it was essential to keep a better record of elder abuse.
"Although in this case the provider optionally contacted the department, there was no requirement to do so," she said.
She said when compulsory reporting was introduced concerns were raised that the legislationdid not cover forms of abuse including poor nutrition and hydration, poor hygiene, verbal and emotional abuse, and financial fraud.
"The government's inability to recognise elder abuse for what it is and to so narrowly define the requirements has resulted in a failure in protecting older people in care," she said.
Last month, Lillian Jeter from the Elder Abuse Prevention Association told The Senior, the Productivity Commission's proposals to tear down mandatory reporting were outrageous given the number of cases of abuse regularly reported to her.
Minister for Mental Health and Ageing Mark Butler said his department had launched a full investigation into the recent incidents and had already taken action to ensure the health and safety of residents at William Cape Gardens.
"The government is committed to strengthening protections for all older people in Commonwealth-funded residential aged care homes and as such a review of accreditation standards and the accreditation process for residential aged care has been under way for some time now," he said.
Aged care needs to be given equal priority in rural areas as it is in cities and must be better equipped to respond to individual needs, Australia's longest serving judge, Michael Kirby, has said.
Mr Kirby told more than 350 aged care professionals at the annual Tri-State Conference in Albury older people needed to be heard as the reform process gained momentum. "Aged people are becoming a bigger cohort of our population," he said.
"The fact that we are voters means that politicians and public officials have to respond to the issues of the aged and to do so in ways that are effective and persuasive. "Aged care is not something that is done to people, it's done with them. "They must be involved in the proper provision of aged care."
Justice Kirby said aged care needs should be addressed in a variety of settings, and this meant adapting services to the communities in which they were provided.
"It's important that in regional and rural Australia we give aged care the same priority per capita as we give it in the cities," he said.
"Of course in the cities it's often easier to concentrate specialised services. "In the country, that's more difficult, and also in the country you sometimes have slightly different attitudes and sometimes things don't move quite as quickly in terms of appreciation and understanding."
Aged and Community Care Victoria chief executive officer Gerard Mansour said the conference had highlighted the need for action on the Productivity Commission's recommendations for a radical overhaul of the aged care system.
He said over the next 14 years the industry would need an investment of $17 billion for theconstruction of buildings to house older people. "The industry is on uncertain and unsustainable footings," he said.
"As a cornerstone to the future sustainability of any system, those Australians who can afford to make a financial contribution to their frail years must do so, and government must provide an appropriate safety net for those who cannot afford to do so.
"Never before has aged care been so important on the national stage."
LISA Comment: Questionable activities and practices will continue to negatively impact on vulnerable people, especially behind closed doors, whilst services, especially government direct care services continue to be in-denial they have major systemic management problems with their inability to set monitor and maintain direct care staff work value expectations within recognised care policies, standards and values.
Most services for vulnerable people have a mainly captive market. Consumers have little or no choice of service provider. Most service provider management and staff, therefore, consider they are providing a charity/hand-out to those often seen as not real people.
Telecom had an Australia-wide captive market. They had little reason for customers or customers service. It took the pressure of big business and government control of both houses of the Federal Parliament to break their strangle hold on the Australian public - to give the public choice of service provider.
There is no big business to fight for the rights of vulnerable people in our society to have choice, good service, good protection and good customer service.
NDIS is moving towards being funded through government general revenue - more of the present general revenue charity hand-out!
This is In contrast to a percentage on the Medicare Levy, to ensure services are an entitlement.
So it may well be more of the same charitable services we now have, for which we must all be eternally grateful and never complain.