Serious incidents experienced by up to one in three group home residents

Posted 1 year ago by Anna Christian
About 20,000 Australians lives in group homes, but the rates of incidents reported are too high. [Source: Shutterstock]
About 20,000 Australians lives in group homes, but the rates of incidents reported are too high. [Source: Shutterstock]

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) watchdog has released details of the number of incidents in group homes, finding the rate of incidents is quite high.

According to the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission report, there were 7,000 reportable incidents and complaints about supported accommodation over the four years between 2018 and 2022.

There are only roughly 20,000 NDIS participants that live in group homes, meaning the number of incidents equates to about one in three residents experiencing abuse or neglect – if each resident only experiences one incident.

Minister for the NDIS, Bill Shorten, told ABC Radio National this morning that he believed the number of incidents was extraordinarily high given the total number of people that live in group homes.

He explained that the findings of the report showed the Commission’s inquiry was an important way of ensuring that people living in supported accommodation were not ignored and that issues which may allow abuse to happen to vulnerable people should be addressed.

“Within the context of why it’s happening… clearly people living in group homes often have less choice and control over their NDIS supports, so there is a negative aptitude and attitude by a small number of the workforce which is driving up a high number of the issues,” explains Minister Shorten.

“The interface with health isn’t as effective for people living in supported accommodation as it should be.

“Also making sure that participants, if they are vulnerable and they’re in group homes, are accommodated with people who they can get along with, not people with whom they might be subject to health and safety risks.” 

The report analysed incidents reported to the Commission about the seven largest providers of Supported Independent Living in Australia, which services many group homes across Australia.

Minister Shorten says some of these providers did well, in that the incidents reported were much less, but some were just “okay” and some were “poor”.

Each of the providers has been given their own detailed report from the Commission on the incidents which were examined and an analysis of how they addressed the incidents.

The Commission also engaged with people living in group homes and consulted people with intellectual disability about their experiences and what they thought supported accommodation should look like.

Based on the feedback and inquiries, the Commission identified some key issues and actions to be taken to address them, including:

  • Specific regulation of group home settings to enhance the quality and safety, starting with the development of new Practice Standards specific to these settings
  • Attitude and aptitude of the workforce – there are some workers whose attitude and aptitude will not be addressed by training or routine supervision and providers should work to develop organisational cultures that eliminate abusive and neglectful workers
  • Interaction of Supported Independent Living (SIL) and Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) causes issues with choice to be addressed through NDIS design 
  • Interface with health and the supported accommodation services is not effective for many people, which providers are trying new solutions to but would benefit from a system level approach

In response to the report findings, Minister Shorten says there will be changes to regulations that direct supported accommodation providers and that monitoring of these providers will also improve.

“I’ve been talking to the Commission as they’ve been preparing to release this report, I’m supporting changes to regulation and monitoring of supported accommodation,” he told the ABC. 

“The reality is I was surprised to find we don’t have updated standards for supported accommodation – I want to rectify this.

“Unfortunately, we seem to be learning the same lessons we should have already learned, we’ve got to be much better at communicating directly with people with disability in supported accommodation.”

Minister Shorten also wants to see people living in group homes effectively educated about their rights and supported to exercise them, so they are not living in situations in which they might experience harm.