Talk-Fest No Safeguard for Disability Rights
The Disability Services Commissioner’s (DSC) tendency to try to resolve all complaints accepted by him through a ‘talk-fest approach’ is failing people with disabilities and their families.
“With at least 20 per cent of complaints since 2010 not being fully resolved, it is obvious that the softly-softly approach of talk-talk is inadequate,” say Max Jackson and Margaret Ryan of JacksonRyan Partners. Mr Jackson and Ms Ryan are the authors of An Analysis of Complaints Management & Resolution Undertaken by Victoria’s Disability Service Commissioner, A Snapshot from the Annual Reports 2008 – 2013.
“By recording partially resolved complaints as though they were fully resolved, the Commissioner is in effect glossing over the failures of his office,” they stated. “The DSC not only fails to acknowledge partially and fully unresolved complaints as deficits, he also fails to provide any critical analysis of such figures in his annual reports. Instead, the partially resolved complaints are recorded and commented on as though they are part of the success of resolving complaints.” Max and Margaret are strong in their criticism of the contents of the annual reports as being “nothing more than a glossy surface presentation.”
“The failure of the Commissioner to use the powers of investigation provided to him under the Disability Act represents another glaring deficit in the work of the DSC. The apparent bloody-minded refusal of the Commissioner to undertake investigations in those cases where complaints are unresolved and conciliation has failed is an issue that cannot go unchallenged,” they stated.
Max and Margaret are also appalled by the Commissioner’s strategy of referring complaints made to him about an agency back to the same agency for investigation by itself. “This is akin to asking criminals if they are innocent,” they said
Mr Jackson and Ms Ryan criticise the DSC’s use of figures in his annual reports. As they say, “The DSC uses the number of enquiries it receives to inflate its importance, as it talks about the thousands of enquiries and complaints it has dealt with since being set up in 2007. Yet the critical figure of in-scope complaints is the most telling. In the six years 2008 to 2013 there have been a mere 739 in-scope complaints, which is less than 2.5 per week.”
“In 2012 and 2013 the number of in-scope complaints dealt with by the DSC totalled 296. Of this number, 88 complaints were only partially resolved or not resolved at all. Yet not one of these was referred for investigation.”
“The DSC is meant to be a safeguard to uphold the rights of persons with disabilities to not only make complaints but more importantly to have these complaints resolved. Analysis of the information gleaned from the Annual Reports shows that the DSC is failing some 20 per cent of the people it is meant to serve. This is not good enough. The Commissioner must acknowledge that he is failing to meet the mandated requirements of disability legislation and action investigations when complaints have not been resolved.”
24 July 2014
Contact: Max Jackson, Mobile 0413 040 654. Margaret Ryan, Mobile 0412 409 610.