Reaching out to residents living in Disability Service facilities
The Public Advocate, Colleen Pearce, has reached out to all 1400 residents living in Disability Service facilities in Victoria, with an Easy English feedback form to help maintain a connection during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr Pearce has also written to all Disability Service CEOs, providers and staff to ensure they understand the role of Office of the Public Advocate (OPA) Community Visitors and their obligations to cooperate with them.
Community Visitors are independent Governor-in-Council appointees under the Disability Act 2006. They make unannounced visits to monitor and report on residents’ human rights, to ensure they are free from abuse, well cared for as well as being supported with dignity and respect.
Community Visitor face-to-face visits were suspended on 23 March 2020 in line with the Chief Health Officer directions and in order to protect residents, volunteers and staff from COVID-19.
Since then, Community Visitors have been making telephone visits and, in some cases, video visits.
Dr Pearce said: “By providing an Easy English feedback form and reply-paid envelope to each disability resident, we are sending a message that Community Visitors are still accessible and interested in their wellbeing, as well as being contactable, even though they are unable to do face-to-face visits.”
A number of residents have already sent back their feedback form and Dr Pearce is keen to encourage more to do so.
“For the most part, their concerns are the same as ours – they miss going out and doing the activities they enjoy.” Dr Pearce said. “Some have taken the time to say they are being treated well but, sadly, there are also some allegations of abuse.
“Some have asked for someone to contact them and our Community Visitors and staff are pleased to do this.
“There is always an added layer of concern when you have a disability. They are worried about what will happen if the virus comes to their house as it is impossible to physically distance, and they are worried about who will look after them if their carer becomes ill.”
Dr Pearce encouraged people who work in disability organisations to check whether their clients had completed the feedback form and, where possible, to support them in doing so.
“At a time when we are all so isolated, when we can’t make face-to-face visits, it’s more important than ever to hear the voices of people with disability and listen to what they have to say.”