With the roll-out of everything NDIS, new and established providers don’t have to look very far for information. But when it comes to cases of the neglect of persons with a disability, there are some key messages that we can’t afford to miss. So let’s start with some crucial questions: What constitutes neglect? What are the signs to look for? And ultimately, what should we do if we suspect a client or family member is experiencing abuse or neglect?
Neglect inflicts harm on a dependent person through the failure of the person responsible to provide necessary care. In cases of neglect, certain necessities such as food and drink, clothing or protection may be passively withheld, or deliberately deprived. Neglect may also be emotional, where the social well being of the person is restricted. Abuse can be summed up as wilful harm of a person by another, and whilst the two terms are different, repeated neglect is also a form of abuse.
The physical signs of neglect may be health-related, such as unhealthy weight levels, or poor dental health. Perhaps you might notice the person experiences poor hygiene care, with food left on clothes throughout the day, or the presence of body odour, an unwashed face, hands or body, or the person wears the same clothes consistently. Other examples include the person wearing ill-fitting clothes, or they may be consistently overdressed or underdressed for the weather conditions. If the person always presents with not enough food, or food that’s inedible or just poor quality, that is also a sign to watch for.
Neglect is not simply defined by the physical signs however. There may also be behavioural indicators that give hints as well. If the person is constantly tired, or persistently hungry, then there may be cause for concern. Other signs may be noticed in the context of relationships, where the person has unexpectedly poor social or interpersonal skills, or even the loss of such skills. If a carer, support person, staff member or service provider repeatedly fails to bring the person to appointments, events and activities, or even actively denies the person these participation opportunities, this is also a sign of neglect.
There are no ‘good news’ cases of neglect. But what we do know is that the Federal Government is taking a giant, proactive approach to making sure such cases of abuse or neglect are prevented. Starting on July 1st, the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission will begin operations in NSW and SA, with rollouts continuing across the country into 2020. The Safeguards Commission will be one national body to oversee an NDIS Code of Conduct, implement worker screening, and ensure that concerns regarding abuse and neglect are thoroughly investigated.
All NDIS stakeholders have enjoyed wider choice across a diverse range of support services with the recent industry boom. With more positive changes on the horizon, we can also enjoy the peace of mind that quality standards to help safeguard against abuse and neglect are becoming stronger than ever.