This is one of the key recommendations in a report tabled in Parliament today by the Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass into reporting and investigation of allegations of abuse in the disability sector.
The investigation was launched in December 2014, prompted by broad concern about the oversight systems currently in place. It was informed by 78 submissions from a range of respondents, including the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.
The investigation revealed oversight arrangements in Victoria are failing to deliver protection to people living with disability in a coherent and consistent way.
Reports and research consistently showed many people living with disability will not report abuse, for fear they will either not be believed, that nothing will happen, or that they will suffer repercussions.
Commission research has identified a number of barriers to reporting crimes, both with respect to people with disabilities reporting crimes themselves and service providers and carers reporting crimes on their behalf.
The Beyond Doubt Report found that barriers for people with disabilities reporting when they had been a victim of a crime included a lack of awareness of rights, the emotional toll of reporting, fear of negative consequences and prior negative interactions with police.
Barriers to service providers and carers either reporting crimes against people with disabilities included a failure to identify abuse and neglect, a failure to adhere to reporting requirements, a normalisation of violence and inadequate internal processes.
The Ombudsman’s recommendations focus on two key areas: the need for a single independent oversight body for the disability sector, and strengthening access to advocacy to ensure everyone has a voice.
The recommended framework includes mandatory reporting to the independent oversight body, powers to investigate individual complaints and systemic issues, interface with police, public reporting on trends, and the ability to share information with other bodies as appropriate.
The Victorian parliamentary inquiry is now underway, and the consultation on the National Disability Insurance Scheme framework, will be informed by the outcomes of this investigation.
Phase 2 of the investigation, to be delivered later this year, will look in greater depth at the process for reporting and investigating abuse, drawing heavily on the experience of individuals.