A thousand allegations of abuse for just 18 prosecutions, NSW Ombudsman reveals

More than 1000 incidents of abuse and neglect of people with disabilities have been reported to the state government in the past two years, the NSW Ombudsman has revealed, but only a tiny fraction have been prosecuted.

These include nearly 500 criminal allegations of abuse of people with a disability by employees and residents in supported accommodation, according to figures provided exclusively to the Herald.

Some 275 of these criminal allegations are against employees and include sexual offences, assaults and fraud against people with a disability in supported accommodation services run or funded by the state government.

About 40 per cent of the employees facing allegations were found to have behaved unacceptably, a spokeswoman for the Ombudsman said.

The total number of incidents reported was 1140. But just 18 people have been prosecuted over the allegations.

"The decision to initiate a criminal prosecution is that of NSW police," an Ombudsman spokeswoman said, while adding it was not known how many investigations were pending.

The Ombudsman called for a specialist law enforcement unit to have jurisdiction over vulnerable people, such as people with a cognitive disability and the elderly.

"There is a need to improve investigative interviewing of people with cognitive impairment more broadly," a spokeswoman for the Ombudsman said.

A spokeswoman for Australia's peak advocacy group, People with Disability Australia, said complaints were not being taken with due seriousness.

"It's because violence against people with disabilities is treated as a [routine] service incident," said Dr Jessica Cadwallader, of People with Disability Australia. "It's not treated with the same seriousness.

"We have the data now but it's quite concerning that nothing is happening."

The Ombudsman said it was developing a program to improve the skills of people who worked in the sector.

The system of reporting complaints about abuse in government-run and funded facilities to the Ombudsman was implemented in late 2014, the state government said.

Labor spokeswoman for Disability Services Sophie Cotsis, said: "These accusations of violence, abuse and neglect are absolutely horrific.

"The Baird Government has failed to take any steps to address the abuse since this information was brought to light."

A spokeswoman for the department declined to say how many reports made to the Ombudsman had also been referred to the police for prosecution.

The spokeswoman did say: "Sexual and physical assaults of a person are serious offences and must be reported to the NSW Police.

"FACS has strict timeframes in which the abuse must be reported and a robust process around systemically investigating each matter."

The NSW Police did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.

This year's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses Into Child Sexual Abuse has found some disability organisations in NSW and Queensland failed to adequately deal with allegations that staff had sexually abused children in their care.

Copyright © 2016 Fairfax Media

Source : http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/a-thousand-allegations-of-abuse-for-just-18-prosecutions-nsw-ombudsman-reveals-20160830-gr4s0w.html

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