Boy left to eat grass at horror home
A mute teenager was left alone in a paddock to eat grass like an animal - one of a catalogue of horrors from an investigation into a home for the intellectually disabled.
Clients at Parklands, a residential facility in Pukekawa, south of Auckland, were forced to live in crowded, dirty conditions surrounded by more than 35 small dogs, fed inadequate food, neglected by untrained staff, provided with no meaningful activities and denied access to their own money, according to the Ministry of Health.
Residents were abused by the "bullying" owners - Linnaire and Neil Joslin - for up to 10 years, living in fear of being beaten or sworn at if they spoke out.
Ministry audit reports, obtained exclusively by the Sunday Star-Times, say the facility harked back to institutions of the 1950s. Now there are calls for the Joslins and their staff to face criminal charges.
On the internet, the Joslins describe Parklands as being in a farm environment and promise clients they will enjoy riding for disabled, farm bike rides, a swimming pool and access to farmyard animals "to add to your quality of life".
The audit reports reveal something far different - residents were verbally and physically abused, made to do farm work and laundry and pick up dog faeces for as little as $4 per week.
In perhaps the worst example of abuse, a teenage boy who was unable to talk was regularly left unattended in a paddock to eat grass "like an animal".
At one point the youth became so ill he passed out and had to be taken to hospital, according to a complaint laid with the health and disability commissioner and substantiated by ministry staff.
Documents show that letters alleging abuse had been written to the ministry and the disability commissioner in 2001, 2006, 2008 and 2010. Some of these were investigated, audits completed and "corrective actions" undertaken. However, the service was allowed to continue operating with help from the ministry until last year.
It wasn't until a former staff member made two complaints in early 2012, about bullying, among other issues, that the Ministry of Health completed a series of audits of Parklands, during which they discovered numerous "high risk" issues.
When the Joslins refused to acknowledge the problems and denied the
complaints were true, the ministry brought in temporary management, who uncovered a further litany of financial, managerial and ethical problems.
"The service operates in a culture based on fear, blame, retribution, punishment and abuse (both verbal and physical)," ministry staff wrote in their final report. "It was a negative, punitive and destructive atmosphere."
The report said the manager, Linnaire Joslin, had "no real competence" for the job and although her staff occasionally treated the residents to an outing to the movies, they were untrained and treated their clients with little more than disdain.
"One of the worst signs of lack of empathy for residents was that individual birthdays were not acknowledged in any shape or form," it said.
"There are no staff working for Parklands who would be considered to have any recognised competencies for working with people with an intellectual disability."
Those findings resulted in the ministry eventually terminating the Joslins' contract in September last year and removing all 19 "extremely vulnerable" residents from their care.
During the shutdown, the Joslins attempted to trespass ministry staff from the property.
They were asked not to engage with the residents before they left.
Families of those who lived at the facility said they were shocked when the abuses were revealed and felt terrible guilt. Some had heard complaints from their loved ones but these were always dismissed by Linnaire Joslin as lies.
"We had suspicions that things weren't right because of the high staff turnover," said one woman, whose brother lived at Parklands for five years. "But it was very difficult to tell what the truth was because my brother is such that he can't really express himself."
Some families, along with former staff members and disability advocates, fear what the Joslins may do next. A former staff member, who was made to sign a confidentiality agreement when she left Parklands, said she was concerned the Joslins would continue to work with other vulnerable people, such as children and the elderly.
"I hope they don't. That woman [Linnaire] treated her dogs better than the residents. Those residents never got anything."
Following Parklands' closure, the couple's company, Joslin Enterprises, was liquidated and its assets, including a rest home in Taranaki, were sold.
But despite the allegations of abuse, some of which were substantiated by ministry staff, the couple are not facing criminal charges.
Advocate Colin Burgering from the Justice Action Group, who made a 2001 complaint about Parklands, believes the couple and staff should be charged by police.
"They treated the residents like slaves, like they were less than nothing," he said.
"You couldn't do it to an animal but it's OK to do it to the intellectually disabled."
Burgering said he believed the ministry also needed to take responsibility for its inaction.
The report written by the temporary managers stated their disbelief that ministry staff had assessed the clients as being "appropriately placed" just months before they took over, with the Joslins awarded a three-year contract extension around the same time.
"Those contracts are awarded by the Ministry of Health. They are the ones that are ultimately responsible and should own up," Burgering said. "But it will be a whitewash. Not because they don't care about these people at all. But they don't care as much about them as they do about their own reputation."
A statement from the National Health Board, which oversees disability services for the ministry, said it had apologised to the residents.
It was confident that appropriate monitoring was in place for all providers and that concerns raised were dealt with "appropriately".
Information about the termination of the Parklands agreement had been shared with the local district health board, Child, Youth and Family, the Franklin Regional Council and potentially the Ministry of Social Development, it said.
The board did not answer questions about whether the Joslins would be able to get another ministry contract, or if there was a warning flag against their name.
The board said instead that there were "a number of safety measures in place", including police checks for staff and mandatory reporting of abuse by providers to police.
Approached by the Star-Times, Linnaire Joslin, called the ministry decision "corrupt". "The closure of Parklands was an absolute disaster. The residents and their families were absolutely devastated."
She initially consented to a longer interview to give the Joslins' side of the story, but then refused to talk on legal advice.
In her interview with ministry staff, Joslin told officials she ran the site because she "just loved helping people" and that they were like her "family".
The ministry report said that on the day the residents left Parklands, not one wanted to say goodbye to the Joslins, including one man who had lived there for 15 years.
CATALOGUE OF ABUSE
Parklands was dirty, cramped and cold, with 35-plus dogs on the property.
Staff watched residents on a surveillance camera rather than interacting with them.
Residents rarely left Parklands.
One man was confined for nine weeks.
Medicine was badly handled and recorded.
Residents were not given regular health checks.
Funding lacked transparency.
Staff rarely bought fresh fruit or meat.
Only $2000 was spent each month on food for 19 people.
Residents' birthdays were not celebrated.
Some clients were forced to share rooms.
At times they resorted to hiding under the covers of their beds to get privacy.
A young man with cerebral palsy was "told off" for reporting to ministry staff that his emergency call bell was broken.
A resident was allegedly punched in the face by a staff member while they were trying to "de-escalate" his behaviour.
Two staff were disciplined over the incident.
Source: Ministry of Health
Sunday Star Times