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Sexually inappropriate behaviour in a disability service

Sexually inappropriate behaviour in a disability support service

Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Rose Wall today released a report finding disability support service IDEA Services, and two of its employees, in breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights for failing to keep a man (Mr C) in their care safe from sexually inappropriate behaviour by another man.

Both men attended a vocational service operated by IDEA Services, which was aware of their respective risks and vulnerabilities. Despite a number of documented serious events involving aggressive or sexualised behaviour towards Mr C by the other man, IDEA Services and its staff took little or no action to respond appropriately and minimise the risk of future harm. This resulted in ongoing acts of sexually inappropriate behaviour, culminating in two preventable events in 2017, one of which involved the other man touching Mr C’s penis while in the bathroom and the second involved the other man being found with his pants down, standing over Mr C while he was sitting on the toilet.

Ms Wall found a "widespread failure to escalate serious incidents" and noted that the deficiencies were systemic across a number of staff and levels of management. "Ultimately I hold IDEA Services responsible for these failings," Ms Wall said.

"I also consider that IDEA Services failed to ensure that … it had a positive organisational culture that treated Mr C’s safety as paramount, and that all staff took a zero tolerance approach to abuse."

Ms Wall found IDEA Services, the Area Manager, and the Service Manager all in breach of Rights 4(1), 4(4) and 6(1) of the Code.

Ms Wall made a number of recommendations to IDEA Services relating to quality and safety improvement initiatives; implementation of an electronic reporting system; auditing its incident reporting; refresher training to staff including on the prevention and management of abuse; and seeking independent advice on what further improvements could be made to its processes for team meetings, incident reporting and recording of family requests or concerns, and to foster an organisational culture focused on continuous improvement and zero tolerance to abuse. Ms Wall also recommended that IDEA Services and the two staff members apologise to the man’s mother.

She further recommended that the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Development update her on the steps they have taken to ensure a zero tolerance approach to abuse within the disability support services they fund.

The case has been referred to the Director of Proceedings to decide whether any legal proceedings should be taken against IDEA Services in the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

The full report for case 17HDC01082 is available on the HDC website.


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