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Incident management by disability support service

Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Rose Wall today released a report finding a disability support service in breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights (the Code) for failing to appropriately support staff to manage an incident with a woman in its care.

The woman has an intellectual disability and was under a compulsory care order. She had a history of being verbally abusive, destructive and violent and was receiving full time care in a secure unit run by the disability service.

Due to the woman’s history, there were plans in place to manage her when she was in a heightened state. Those plans involved giving the woman space to calm down and avoiding physical contact, as touching triggered her.

On the day in question, the woman’s behaviour and mood deteriorated and she entered the staff office, threw herself on the floor twice and grabbed, pulled and threw objects around the office. A support worker removed her from the office using physical contact.

While Ms Wall was critical of the support worker’s actions, she considered that the disability service failed to provide adequate induction and training when the support worker was first employed less than two months prior to the incident.

"I am thoughtful of the very specialised service that is being provided to [the woman] (such as that she is the sole client), and would expect that training and support for all staff reflected this level of specialisation," Ms Wall said.

Ms Wall was also critical of the failure to inform the woman’s welfare guardian of the incident, and staff’s lack of clarity on when incidents needed to be reported.

Following recommendations from the HDC, the disability service has since improved its training for staff and incident reporting. Rose Wall recommended that both the support worker and the disability service apologise to the woman.

The full report for case 17HDC00439 is available on the HDC website.

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