Abuse and violence doubles in SRS
Incidences of abuse, neglect and violence doubled in Government-regulated supported accommodation for vulnerable Victorians in the last financial year.
The finding is part of this year's Community Visitors Annual Report tabled in Parliament, 13 October.
Public Advocate and chair of Community Visitors said the finding was extremely troubling given that Supported Residential Services (SRS) were a critical part of Victoria's system of care for vulnerable people.
"Incidents of abuse, neglect and violence have doubled in SRS in the last year from 62 to 123, compromising the viability of this type of care for some 4000 of our most vulnerable fellow citizens," Ms Pearce said.
"This is the most troubling finding from 5268 visits by 416 volunteer Community Visitors across the state last year to full-time accommodation for residents of disability group homes and SRS, and patients in mental health units."
The issues reported by the Community Visitors are related to the increasingly complex mix of residents, and involved residents assaulting or otherwise putting co-residents at risk.
Ms Pearce said that the increase was also due to improved reporting in SRS which better showed the real level of abuse, neglect and violence.
Community Visitors were shocked at the ferocity of some incidents including in the Western Metropolitan Region where a resident threw boiling water over another, and where residents threatened co-residents and staff with knives.
Several regions reported sexual assault by residents on co-residents.
Drugs and alcohol are a major issue and Community Visitors see a direct correlation between them and theft, assault and violence. Disturbingly, self-harm by residents was also rife throughout SRS.
SRS provide supported accommodation to people with mental illness, disability and frail aged in Victoria, some for only the cost of their pension.
"It is vital that government better regulates SRS to ensure that these people who have no other housing options are able to live safe lives. This must be our first priority in regulating housing."
Community Visitors recommended the State Government:
- improve liaison between mental health system and SRS so that residents with mental health issues were better supported on discharge
- require health services provide information about a prospective residents' behaviour and risk profile when they discharge patients to SRS
- fund behaviour management specialists help proprietors improve resident compatibility
- provide mandatory training in incident reporting for proprietors and staff
- analyse incident reports to improve understanding of risk
- better educate health and emergency services staff about the role of SRS.
This year, 849 visits were made by 80 Visitors to Victoria's 140 SRS.
Volunteer Community Visitors pay unannounced legislated visits to mental health services, disability group homes and Supported Residential Services throughout Victoria. Their role is to be the 'eyes and ears' of the Victorian community on government-run or regulated services.
They are a unique service which has been recommended by the Federal Productivity Commission as a safeguarding model for other states under the NDIS.
Media enquiries: Communications Manager Sally Gibson 9603 9582 or 0409 197 717
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Colleen Pearce is Victoria’s current Public Advocate and was first appointed in 2007. She commenced her second term in 2014.
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