Ministry failed to act on carer abuse cases - report

Last updated 10:59 12/12/2013

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An independent review into residential care for the disabled has found the Ministry of Health missed warning signs and failed to act on a number of cases of long-term abuse by carers.

Health Minister Tony Ryall ordered a review of residences for the intellectually disabled in May, following a Fairfax investigation into long-term abuses at a home in South Auckland.

One of the worst cases was at Parklands residential home, run by Linnaire and Neil Joslin. 

It was shut down by the Ministry late last year, after a litany of abuses were uncovered.

Those, which only came to light in May, included a boy being left in a field to eat grass.

Residents there were also forced to live in filthy conditions surrounded by more than 35 dogs and were neglected by untrained staff, provided with no meaningful activities and denied access to their own money.

The inquiry made 36 recommendations and found the Ministry needed to take "immediate and decisive" action whenever an abuse was reported.

"Until early-to-mid 2012 the Ministry missed or did not heed warning signs that existed or issuesthat were raised in relation to the three cases," the report said. 

"In short, it is difficult to talk of the action taken, when many of the actions were inadequate or non-existent."

It recommended the Ministry act on the knowledge it has, "and make the hard decisions including terminating provider contracts, where appropriate, in a timely way".

Its handling of reports that an autistic resident suffered carpet burns when she was dragged across the floor by a caregiver in a Christchurch care home was also criticised. 

The incident happened at the Mary Moodie Family Trust facility in January 2010 and involved a male caregiver dragging a female resident across the floor by her legs and then arms, causing carpet burns to her back.

"The effectiveness of the Ministry's monitoring of Mary Moodie was minimal," the report said.

Two audits done at the time, expressed concerns about care at the facility, but painted an optimistic picture. 

The inquiry said this raised questions over the quality of the audits conducted as well as why the Ministry relied so heavily on the audits alone.

Ryall said he accepted the findings of the inquiry in full, along with each recommendation.

"Some of the recommendations, such as improving the management of complaints, publishing provider audit reports online and increasing the time contract relationship managers spend visiting providers, will be implemented quickly. The Ministry is working on these changes now.

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"Other recommendations, like bringing together the paper-based provider information into a single electronic management system, will take time to develop and introduce," he said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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