Menace of ‘cruelty, violence’ towards SA disability care resident not investigated for 3 years | Incapacity royal fee
A South Australian family spoke of their fear after receiving an anonymous letter warning their nephew not to be “regularly and repeatedly abused with cruelty and violence” and to be poisoned or drowned in their sheltered shelter.
The Royal Disability Commission continues to investigate violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation in disability services in a weeklong meeting in Adelaide.
It was revealed on Monday that South Australian authorities had failed to properly investigate threats against 38-year-old Mitchell, who lives with an intellectual disability.
He lives in assisted living in one of several adjoining units operated by the state’s Department of Human Services.
His aunt and uncle, Victoria and James, announced to the royal commission that they had raised some concerns about the level of foster care he was receiving in 2017.
On March 3, 2018, a letter was sent to her home address containing a series of threats against Mitchell.
The letter Victoria read to the commission stated that the facility’s site manager had been removed and claimed the staff were against their departure, meaning they were “angry and pissed off, which now puts your nephew in danger”.
It read: “Food … poison. Medication … wrong. Shampoo … what’s in the bottle? Acid. Bruises … how did that happen? …
“Going out … falling down stairs. How well does he swim? Locked? Food withheld. Through the windshield … seat belt loosened.
“This little piglet is regularly and repeatedly abused with cruelty and violence.”
Victoria and James picked up the letter and reported to the police.
“Of course, you know, we were just completely shocked by what happened,” Victoria said at the hearing on Monday.
“It was our whole family because of course we made everyone aware of it. We all agreed that neither of us felt that it was our core team of support people who were going to do this, and we felt that because of that, we … actually could stay calm and work this through while the Investigations took place. “
Confident that “a significant investigation was being conducted,” the couple requested updates from the department but said they tried not to interfere.
Over time, however, they became increasingly concerned that the case was not being taken seriously and subsequently sought confirmation from a state-appointed attorney.
SA’s main visitor, Maurice Corcoran, told the couple in October that he had met with a key department official who “confirmed that his unit had not investigated the threatening letter or interviewed staff.”
Corcoran wrote, “Therefore, I remain concerned that this has not been properly investigated by either the police or the police [department] and I have recorded this in my annual report which will be presented to Parliament next Thursday. “
The couple told the royal commission that they felt abandoned by authorities.
“We felt that any organization worth their money would take a letter like this and look inside their culture,” said James. “What kind of culture did it breed that someone felt free to send that to someone home? These people knew where we lived, they knew where our children lived. “
Victoria said that in retrospect, the couple felt they should have gone to the media.
“You know, we made as much noise as possible, but we really believed that we were acting professionally and in everyone’s best interests so that the government would do the right thing,” she said.
A state ombudsman report earlier this year found that the Department of Human Services “failed to properly investigate the letter and its errors were unreasonable”.
In March, the department resumed its investigation of the letter, which closed after a month without naming the author.
The department wrote to the couple in March of that month informing them of the result.
The investigation was told that this was the first correspondence they had received from the department, more than three years after the threats against Mitchell were received.
Victoria became emotional when she said that fear for her nephew’s safety had been an “extremely heavy burden”.
“I’m very happy that I can take this burden off myself today because it was really so difficult to hold onto,” she said.
The department will come for a hearing this week.
The investigation continues.