Two young men with disabilities who suffered abuse in care never received compensation or any formal apology.
The Disability Royal Commission recently examined allegations of Abuse by a carer at NDIS provider Afford.
Disability carer jailed for three years
A disability support carer in Sydney’s west was jailed for three years on abuse-related charges.
Police found images of clients taken during their personal care on the carer’s mobile. They charged the carer with offences connected to the abuse. He pleaded guilty and got a jail sentence for three years.
Earlier this month the Royal Commission specifically looked into the experiences of three men with disabilities in Affords’ care during the time of the abuse.
Jason, 24, and Toby, 22, were among a number of men who experienced abuse by the lifestyle support worker.
Abuse in care: No formal apology, no compensation
Jason’s mother, Sally*, said they had not received any formal apology or compensation for the abuse Jason endured.
Sally said she received an initial phone call from Afford. However, no funds they spent on the service were ever returned to them.
“I felt, the day he was arrested, for Afford, [it was] ‘wash my hands of him, he’s been arrested, that’s it, we don’t need to deal with anything else’,” Sally told the hearing.
Sally said that the family learned of the abuse from police. The CEO of Afford did not call the family until the following day.
The CEO apologised to Sally, insisting he has stayed back late and checked the paperwork to ensure the offending carer had been employed “properly”.
“And that really stuck in my mind because I’m thinking, at this stage, I’ve just found out that my child’s been abused at the hand of one of your workers and it’s more important for you to tell me that you’ve employed him properly,” Sally said.
“I was in shock … after I got off the phone I remember saying, ‘I don’t understand that phone call at all’.”
Families develop deep mistrust for NDIS providers
Toby’s mother, Suzie* said their family had also not received an apology or compensation.
Suzie and Toby’s father were horrified when they learned of the abuse. They quickly developed a deep mistrust of people caring for their son, the commission heard.
Suzie withdrew Toby after the family got an invoice for services that did not occur because he was on holiday with his family in New Zealand.
Disability Royal Commission hears profits soared due to Job Keeper
Steven Herald was the CEO at Afford during the time the abuse occurred. He left the company in March 2021, shortly before the carer who abused residents went to jail.
Afford Chair Mike Allen slammed the former CEO. He told the Commission that his board reports were “somewhat self-centred” and “felt inappropriate”.
“The then CEO had a very strong view that financial performance also reflected more broadly across the organisation,” Mr Allen said.
In one report from October 2020, Mr Herald referred to the month’s results as “once again fabulous”.
The commission heard he went on to call the “total profit for the quarter is off the charts due to the net benefit of Job Keeper over the quarter of $6.9 million”.
Afford received $10 million in Job Keeper funds during 2020 and 2021, according to financial reports.
Commissioner slams Afford CEO
Commissioner Ronald Sackville questioned how Herald remained in the position for so long.
“I find it difficult to understand how the CEO could possibly have last as long as he did in the light of the reporting that he did which was not merely — I’m giving you my impression — narcissistic in the way that way that has been described by Mr Griffin, but reflected a complete failure to recognise, understand and implement, as far as the documentation is concerned, the overriding goal of the organisation not just to provide services or more of them, but to keep the health, wellbeing and safety of all participants in the programs at the very front of the organisation,” he said.
The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability continues in June. At that time it will focus on the experiences of children and young people with disability across different school settings, including special education settings.
Sidnie Sarang is a multi-faceted lawyer who is passionate about justice. Sidnie practices across criminal defence law, fair trading, and commissions of inquiry including crime commissions and royal commissions.