The Royal Commission's Interim Report on Disability, Aged Care and Mental Health

The Australian Royal Commission has requested a 17 month extension on 30 October 2020 such that it would be required to deliver its final report and recommendations by 29 September 2023 instead of by 29 April 2022. Below is some material from their interim report:

Public Hearings

As well as the hearing concerning the COVID-19 Pandemic, there were five other public hearings conducted during the period July – December 2020. They concerned:

  • Psychotropic medication, behaviours support and behaviours of concern.
  • Barriers to accessing a safe, quality and inclusive school education and life course impacts.
  • The experiences of First Nations People with disability and their families in contact with child protection systems.
  • Pathways and barriers to open employment for people with disability, and
  • Education and training of professionals in relation to people with cognitive disability.

Community Engagement

The Royal Commission’s engagement in five key respects:

  • Engagement with First Nations People with disability.
  • The disability strategic engagement group that the Royal Commission has established.
  • Engagement with culturally and linguistically diverse people with disability.
  • Engagement with priority groups, and
  • Engagement with advocacy groups.

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The Report also outlines the progress that has been made in the Royal Commission’s receipt of and consideration of submissions received during the period July 2020 to December 2020. During this time the Royal Commission received 669 submissions. As well as some key statistical information the Report identified the following themes:

  • Of those who had told the Royal Commission of their experiences 40% said they experienced violence and abuse, 55% said they experienced systemic abuse or neglect, 32% said they experienced neglect and 9% said they experienced exploitation.
  • People with disabilities have told the Royal Commission that it can be difficult to report violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation, because they feel their complaints are often unheard or do not receive appropriate action.
  • Of the submissions that reported one or more experiences of violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation, 104 (39%) discussed making a complaint of these, the vast majority told the Royal Commission they did not receive a satisfactory outcome and approximately 1 in 2 told the Royal Commission there was no action taken. Approximately 1 in 10 told the Commission they received satisfactory outcomes.

The Royal Commission has suggested that many submissions describe system-wide practices of maltreatment, inaction and substandard care. Examples of “systemic neglect” included repeated instances of inadequate or inappropriate health or medical treatment, limited educational opportunities and supports, a lack of accessible housing of a proper standard, and difficulties accessing legal support and representation.

Private Sessions

The Report identifies emerging themes from private sessions held between July and December 2020. These include:

  • The Royal Commission reports that it has been told that patients with disability may not be offered the same level of care as patients without disability;
  • Parents and other supporters of people with disability have recounted experiences of unexplained bruising on, or other injury to, people with disability residing in care. The Royal Commission has been told that there is a lack of proper training for carers;
  • Some people who provide support to people with disability as carers or in their professional capacity have told the Royal Commission they are afraid to report abuse or neglect in case of reprisal or the loss of employment;
  • The Royal Commission has been told that there is a lack of appropriate service provision for people with disability in rural and remote areas and that that is particularly the case in rural First Nations communities; and
  • People with disabilities often face issues with inaccessibility and discrimination in their workplaces and some have said that they have to repeatedly ask for accessible facilities to be provided.

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