Heavily Bruised, and in State Care (LINK)
by Richard Baker and Nick McKenz - The Age, Melbourne - July 17, 2012
The Victorian government is under pressure to release the results of an inquiry into serious injuries sustained by an autistic Melbourne man in state care.
Documents and photographs suggesting possible repeated assaults on David Yassa were referred to an external investigator last year to determine whether he was the victim of crimes inside state-run homes in Melbourne's north-west.
His mother, Mona Yassa, has for six months unsuccessfully asked the Department of Human Services which ordered the investigation to provide her with a copy of its findings.
Concern over the case comes after The Age yesterday revealed that 112 alleged cases of intellectually disabled residents being seriously abused by workers in state-funded care in Melbourne were reported in 2011-12.
Department insiders accused senior public servants of failing to properly log reports of adverse incidents and pressuring staff into deleting emails in a bid to cover up the extent of alleged sexual and other assaults.
An external review of management's handling of recent allegations of sexual abuse of intellectually impaired residents by staff in the department's Melbourne east disability accommodation service region has been commissioned.
Mrs Yassa has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and the ongoing issues around her son are troubling her, according to Dariane McLean, of the Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with Disability.
"She is very stressed. Her security is undermined greatly if she cannot see the evidence that has been followed in this process," Ms McLean said.
It is understood Mrs Yassa will have to seek release of the report under the Freedom of Information Act because the investigation contains the names of other residents and staff who have lived and worked in close proximity to her son.
Mr Yassa, who is in his early 30s, does not speak and has inflicted injuries on himself and others in the past, has proven a difficult case for the department.
The report Mrs Yassa is seeking was prompted by two external investigations, the findings of which have been obtained by The Age.
A July 2011 report by forensic medicine specialist Edward Ogden found Mr Yassa had suffered extensive bruising to his back, shoulders, face and head. He found the injuries ranged from possibly self-inflicted to strongly suggestive of assault''.
Reviewing more than 20 photos, Dr Ogden also found he may have received cigarette burns.
''Given the number, distribution and severity of the unexplained injuries I recommend that an experienced investigator be tasked to examine the residential records, medical records and interview the appropriate personnel to exclude non-accidental causes of these injuries,'' Dr Ogden wrote.
A June 2011 confidential report found the department did not categorise extensive bruising that appeared on his body in October 2010 as a ''category 1'' serious incident. ''The poor management of this incident was a significant failure on the part of DHS,'' the report by consultant Heather Michaels & Associates concluded.
''David's progress and wellbeing does not seem to have been considered holistically. The significant changes needed to his accommodation, day activities and the capacity of his carers to provide skilful interventions have not been acted upon in a timely manner.''
The department is understood to have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to find the right accommodation and support staff for Mr Yassa. But he is without a permanent residence or support staff at present due to problems associated with his care.
A spokesman for the department last night said: ''We are close to finalising arrangements for supported accommodation within his community using an innovative new care model. The department takes seriously and followsup any allegations of harm to clients, and it regularly and carefully monitors David's wellbeing.''
The department has taken steps in the past year to improve its reporting of alleged assaults, with staff directed to advise police of all serious incidents and provide details to the Disability Services Commissioner.
LISA Comment: Yet another story highlighting a subject which will quickly, as always, depart media and public attention and interest.
Below this media iceberg is the festering sore, the never ending problems and concerns for most residents/clients of day services and group homes, and their families. Especially those in DHS direct care services.
This festering sore is people with a disability and their families trapped in 'captive market institutional culture services' which have little or no reason for customers or customer service.
Captive market is, "The person with a disability and their family have little meaningful choice of service provider outside of the limited and restricted ISP process. The department's DSR ensures this - even if the residents of DHS group homes had their existing bulk-funded service package classified ISP ".
Institutional culture is, "Leave your 'kid' with us, go away and don't come back". "If you ever attempt to question what we do, we will frustrate you to breaking point. And, we will punish you, if you attempt to retaliate against us". "You must learn to understand, that we are doing you a big favour in providing anything at all. So you must show us respect at all times, without question".