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Public hearing 23: Preventing and responding to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation in disability services (a case study)

The Royal Commission held a public hearing from 16 to 20 May 2022.

The Royal Commission’s twenty-third public hearing commenced on 16 May 2022 at the International Convention Centre in Sydney (Public hearing 23). The hearing was open to the public and was live streamed on the Royal Commission website.

Public hearing 23 was the fourth in the series of Royal Commission hearings examining the role and responsibility of disability service providers to prevent and respond to violence against, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability to whom they are providing services. In the course of this examination, the Royal Commission also inquired into how the current systems of funding and oversight of disability services protect people with disability from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Public hearing 23 focused on the experiences of people with disability (and their families) who received services from the NDIS registered service provider Australian Foundation for Disability (Afford). It also examined Afford’s structure, governance, policies and processes and how those may have affected the safety and quality of services provided to people with disability, and attempted to identify broader systemic issues exemplified by this case study.

Evidence was presented at the hearing on the following matters:

  • the services provided by Afford, with a particular focus on day programs and the experiences of people with disability who participated in one of Afford’s day programs in western Sydney between 2018 and 2021
  • Afford’s response to the abuse of several people with disability participating in its day program in western Sydney, by a support worker, in 2019
  • measures taken by Afford to prevent and respond to the abuse of people with disability participating in their day programs
  • Afford’s governance, management and staffing arrangements and how they affected the quality of services provided to, and safety of, people with disability participating in their day programs
  • Afford’s systems and training in respect of prevention, recording, reporting and responding to incidents of violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation, handling complaints and communicating with families of participants attending day programs
  • how day program services were charged by Afford and paid for through participants’ NDIS Plans
  • recent organisational and governance changes made by Afford to prevent and respond to violence against and/or abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability to whom it is providing services
  • the external oversight and regulation by the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission and/or the NDIA of the quality of Afford’s services to NDIS participants and Afford’s charging of fees to NDIS participants’ plan funding.

Anyone who believed they had a direct and substantial interest in the subject matter of this hearing, as outlined in Practice Guideline 6, was able to make an application for leave to appear by 5.00pm on Wednesday 11 May 2022.