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Access: Disability abuse: it’s not OK

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  • Rosemary McDonald,


    Kirsty Johnston richly deserves the Cannon Award for her articles on the treatment of vulnerable disabled at the hands of MOH contracted providers. The input of Colin Burgering from the Justice Action Group must also be acknowledged.

    The reaction from Claire Teague from the New Zealand Disability Support Network disgust me. From her July 2013 Newsletter....

    "The recent media revisiting of a number of incidents that have occurred over the last four or five years seems to have abated. I’m concerned at the apparent lack of balance and natural justice of some media coverage, while others have really done a lot of preparation to present different viewpoints, such as the Radio New Zealand Insight programme. We’ve had a meeting with MoH officials to discuss what we can collaboratively do to restore a perceived lack of confidence in providers."

    What exactly does she mean by "perceived"?

    I see the last sentence of Teague's statement to be a declaration that her organisation and MOH are going to get their heads together, not to improve the standard of care from contracted providers, but to work on their combined public images.

    ! Bullshit avalanche alert!

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    New Zealand Disability Support Network

    to clarify for other readers, this is the main organisation representing the interests of disability support service provider organisations.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Hilary Stace,

    Disabled people in the UK are occupying Westminster . Fighting back.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report

  • Angela Hart,

    Thanks Hilary, I went looking to see how well the media covered this occupation and found this piece. It provides an understanding of what a well supported high needs life can look like, and the education and social life it enables for this young woman, who can realise her potential and be gainfully employed and live a good life- if the funding is not pulled.

    Christchurch • Since Apr 2014 • 614 posts Report

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    "ILF recipient Kevin Caulfield said: "Changes brought in by this government herald the end of independent living for disabled people and the return to a segregated society where disabled people are warehoused away.

    "Ironically, at a time when the public is up in arms about abuse in care homes, current government policy will return disabled people to exactly those places where we are most at risk of abuse.

    "Disabled people fought hard over many years to fight our way out of the institutions to live and participate alongside our families and friends. We won't go back. We will fight back."""

    The same can be said about here in Godzone....exactly the same.

    Come on NZ disabled....grow some and organise!

    Do NOT rely on the government funded DPOs to defend you...

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report

  • Hilary Stace,

    He Wawata conference to address the issues raised in the Roguski report is on in Gisborne today 15 December. All proceedings will be available on line

    Lots of issues being raised such as the requirements for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to be reflected in NZ domestic violence law.

    (Since this article Graeme Innes the Australian Disability Rights Commissioner has had his position disestablished by the Abbott government.)

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Cane and able...

    Since this article Graeme Innes the Australian Disability Rights Commissioner has had his position disestablished by the Abbott government.

    Such forward thinking by Abbott's Government doesn't surprise me, after all he made himself Minister of Women's Affairs!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    I stumbled accross that last week Hilary...made a mental note to sit busy, and promptly forgot.

    Did you participate? Any standout results/statements?

    I would be particularly interested if there was an undertaking to act on the reccommndations from the Putting People First report....especially about attitudes of staff in facilities towards disabled, and the Ministry cancelling contracts of those Providers who fail to meet the terms of those contracts.

    Thank you for keeping us informed!

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report

  • Hilary Stace,

    The first hour was pretty unsatisfactory with technical problems and then I had to go but it is going to be available online soon. I would like to hear what Debbie Hager said as she is working at that intersection between disability and violence (and that Hager family are always worth listening to).
    More info on this website

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Some time ago, while travelling far from the madding crowd, one of the offspring phoned us to let us know that a Debbie someone had been on Natrad speaking out about the lack of participation from some of the 'advocates' for victims of domestic violence and the disabled. She acknowledged that there was fear that criticism of government policies would result in cutting of funding.

    I would love to be able to post a link....but for the life of me I can't find it.

    The Grey/Sedgwick .... paper was a "you are not alone" message that was sadly largely ignored by the very 'silent ones' that Debbie Hager spoke about.

    Gee...I bet Ma and Pa Hager are proud parents.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report

  • Hilary Stace,

    Recording of disability abuse conference in Gisborne on Monday now available through this site.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Thanks Hilary, saves me trawling the net on an old and unfamiliar computer(we got burgled yesterday).

    Michael Roguski speaks with some feeling. I must have read dozens of papers recounting experiences such as he relates....but to hear the words said out loud...very moving.

    Having family members as paid carers is common on the 'Coast, having many family members working for the same agency is also common. Whanau ties are wide, strong and often all pervasive....easy to see how serious abuse would go unacknowledged. One would have thought the whole nepotism issue would have been addressed long before now.

    I would be interested to know if unpaid family carers were counted in the same group as paid family carers.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    His research was done last year before the funded family care came in.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Hilary Stace, I said in my last post, on the Coast (Gisborne/East Coast/ Eastern BOP) family carers being paid (through a MOH Contracted Provider) is as common as not. This also applies to the Far North. Both areas have a number of Maori Providers (even pre Whanau Ora) who routinely pay resident or other family members. This was one of the unspoken bones of contention during the early stages of the Family Carers case. Of the 272 cases of family being paid....most were explained/justified on ' cultural' grounds.

    The advent of the Funded Family Care Scheme has had little or no far as I have heard.

    The whole issue in these areas gets really, really messy.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report

  • Hilary Stace,

    The issue of historic abuse won't go away. The Confidential Listening and Assistance Service has now been closed but their last report highlights numerous examples of abuse and injustice (clever journalist embedded link to OIA'd report in this article). This government doesn't care but a future one will have to have an inquiry and an apology. A fast track process is not the same as a morally restorative State apology.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    A fast track process is not the same as a morally restorative State apology.

    And exactly what would it cost the State to apologise?


    But, an apology might imply an undertaking to ensure such horrors were not repeated, that the system has changed, that the State recognises the rights of these children and their worth as citizens.

    Hilary, thanks for posting this, I think.

    I read the report in tears.

    As a former foster parent, frustrated to the point of reporting CYF to the Children's Commission, and as a former fostered child.

    Nothing has changed in the past 55 years.

    How can that be? We have known for decades the long term effects of abuse and neglect of children, yet we still persist in sidelining and shelving these reports....I would like to see what the Panel recommended.

    I am a citizen...a small part of the State.

    I apologise.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report

  • Hilary Stace,

    The Minister has now said she herself will apologise to affected individuals, but she does not get that idea that the State allowed abuse, so the State must apologise. That means the PM and Governor General and formally and seriously. Plus ongoing restorative processes.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report

  • Rosemary McDonald,

    and now, it seems, Auntie Anne apologises too...

    And of course I apologise to anyone who was abused while they were in state care."

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report

  • Rosemary McDonald,

    I am reviving this thread in the light of the publication on the Misery of Health website of the Developmental Evaluation Reports of disability support services.

    One of the organisations featured in Kirsty Johnston's work on abuse and neglect at the hands of disability care providers is Te Roopu Taurima o Manukau.

    The abuses of some of those clients were uncovered when two Auckland-based patients made allegations against staff members in early 2011. The ministry would not release the full complaints to Fairfax NZ but briefing notes released under the Official Information Act revealed one man complained he was kicked, hit and choked, had hot water thrown on him, was sworn at and made to sit in the corner as punishment.

    Staff videotaped him while they ''restrained'' him, the man claimed. He also told his legal representatives he was made to kneel in a garage for long periods with his nose against the wall.

    A letter in early 2011 from two doctors at the regional psychiatry service revealed other patients had bruising, had spoken of assaults, were not being given medication, and were being exposed to risky situations where they had access to drugs and alcohol. Previous attempts to raise these concerns had gone unanswered.

    The subsequent "Putting People First" report placed responsibility largely at the door of the Ministry of Health who...

    ...missed early signs of brewing trouble.

    ....the response to shortcomings in resident safety was slow. We accept that the Ministry
    was working with the providers to bring their services up to a minimum standard but we question
    whether the approach should have been allowed to go on for so long.

    Its been two years, and longer since the Ministry took an active interest in the quality of care at TRT and maybe its a bit unfair to expect years of mismanagement, inadequate care, culture of abuse and general don't give- a -damness to improve overnight...but you'd think that their next Development and Evaluation Report would have been a little more positive.

    Systems, processes and documentation was not consistent across the services. In some cases resident incompatibility based on levels of need impacted on services.

    There were staff vacancies in Hamilton and Canterbury. Recruitment of appropriate support staff is an issue. There have been 30 staff dismissals since January 2015, with five more pending. Some dismissed staff have sabotaged Te Roopu, making progress difficult.

    there was a consistent theme in relation to maintenance not being complete

    Lapses in Health and safety, infection control and general cleanliness of the houses was also a common theme. Health and Safety meetings have not been consistently held and Health and Safety Checklists had not been completed in some houses

    Due to the significant changes that have been made at Te Roopu Taurima O Manukau Trust in relation to structure and staffing, there is still some support staff who are complacent, appear to have lost confidence and lack trust in the organisation. This culture and attitude within the staff has had an impact on the ability to deliver consistent services.

    Attitudes and behaviours of some support staff demonstrate that there is still an abusive tendency evident, which is being dealt with.

    It all makes for a pretty dismal read.

    There is (another) new CEO who is ex HDC. A new Senior Adviser is also from the Health and Disability maybe they will start 'putting the people first'.

    For the sake of the clients I sincerely hope so, but I feel there is a culture at Te Roopu Taurima which is unlikely to change, largely because they have never really admitted they had any serious problems with abuse and attitudes towards their vulnerable clients.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    Thanks for the reminder, Rosemary. Mihi Forbes was on to this issue when she was still with Native Affairs. But when media interest dissipates...

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Perhaps, there will be interest shown from our friends in MSN?

    A great follow up story here. I actually wrote a MUCH larger comment last night, after doing a spot of google sleuthing...but I broke the PA preview function(ooops)...and had to edit rather savagely.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report

  • Rosemary McDonald,

    I'm putting this.... here, kinda where it belongs, because it is disability abuse and its not ok.

    Nathan Booker was left unsupervised in a bath 1/3rd to 1/2 full of water and he drowned.

    This happened at a respite care facility in Palmerston North on the 10th January 2014.

    Anyone who knew Nathan, as our family did, would know that there could be only one possible outcome from leaving Nathan alone in a bath.

    To do such a thing amounts to criminal negligence.

    Yet initially no one was charged after what appears to have been a cursory 'investigation', where the caregiver who had left Nathan in the bath was treated like a witness rather than as a suspect, as would have been appropriate under the circumstances.

    Idea Services, who ran the facility, neglected to contact WorkSafe NZ...Worksafe found out about Nathan's death through media reports and initiated its own investigation.

    WorkSafe obtained statements the police had taken during their investigation...but the police "did not take any steps to obtain information gathered by WorkSafe and assess whether it could support a criminal prosecution."

    The police informed Nathan's Mum that they would not be charging anyone over Nathan's death, and Angela's account of that conversation (which of course the police dispute) loads abuse atop criminal neglect.

    Ms Middlemiss later told the Authority that she did not accept the Police’s explanation for why they were not laying charges. She said Officer A had a sarcastic attitude during the meeting and, when arguing that it was unrealistic to expect constant supervision of Nathan, told her: “I could’ve done you for neglect by not sleeping in the same room as your son or [not] being in the lounge with him when he was in the lounge.”

    Angela told the officer of another very similar case where the caregiver was prosecuted and sentenced 400 hours community service...

    he turned around and said
    to me, “You seriously want me to do this big, massive investigation for 40 hours a
    week?” I said, “Yes I do.” It’s like he didn’t want to do all that work just for 40
    hours a week, 40 hours a week community service or whatever it is. Forty hours’
    community service. I wanted it for justice. I wanted [Ms X] to know that she did

    When I heard that this IPCA report had been released I thought perhaps that some peace could finally be found for Nathan's mother and brothers.

    After reading the IPCA report, I can see how Nathan's family can still be angry and hurting.

    Yes the IPCA found the police wanting, and hopefully the promised changes to procedure will lessen the chance of a repetition of such a shonky investigation in the future but I am not confident that attitudes such as those displayed by the police and Idea Services will be that readily changed.

    Respect to Nathan's Mum and brothers for demanding accountability for this young man's death...

    Shame on the police and Idea Services for treating his life with such disregard.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    The root cause does seem to be thinking a disabled person is worth less - we get a constable rather than a senior detective, not worth all the fuss of doing their job and investigating and prosecuting, who's going to hold them up for it anyway, etc.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Sacha,

    It would appear, however, that there is some discrepancy between the initial statements made by IHC New Zealand (the owners of Idea Services in whose care Nathan drowned) and the IPCA report.

    On the 14th January 2014 the Manawatu Standard reported...

    Media spokeswoman Paula McArthur would not comment on whether the facility was understaffed at the time, or whether there had been previous incidents.

    "At the moment we are working with the police and, as it will ultimately be before the coroner, we are unable to say anything," she said.

    "We are working with the family and they are very clear about what they would like to do, and we are following their wishes and working in with the police."

    Twice the Media Spokeswoman for IHC states that they were working with the police, yet the IPCA report states...

    Similarly, the three statements from managers of the respite care facility were pre prepared and did not sufficiently address the issue of gross negligence. The statements did not contain enough information regarding supervision and training of staff, care plans, medication, and what was expected of staff, particularly at bath time. The Authority acknowledges that Police sought to interview the respite care facility managers and, after they refused to participate, accepted the pre-prepared statements as a last resort. However the Authority considers that Police should have made more of an effort to obtain the information relating to the issue of gross negligence (as described above), by asking follow-up questions or further seeking interviews with the managers.


    How on earth can refusing to be interviewed by the police be construed as "working with the police"?

    It is not as if IHC have not been through these types of investigations before.

    In 2007 IHC took responsibility for the death of Liam Munro, ( and in 2015 their care of Paul Thompsom, who died in 2013, was found to be inadequate.

    There was another death of a resident in an IHC facility in 2011, and although the Coroner found no direct culpability, certain recommendations were made to improve safety for residents.

    There are other complaints about Idea Services, and to be generous they are a large provider with many clients, but one would think that they would have a set protocol under circumstances such as a death in one of their facilities.

    Or maybe they do have a set protocol?

    Or are the police misrepresenting what actually happened?

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report

  • Hilary Stace,

    Disability abuse continues.

    Officials from mental health, disability support, district health boards really need to do some serious collaborative self-reflection and ask whether they are the problem or can actually work with families to find proper community-based, person-centred solutions.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report

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