May 3, 2023

Elder abuse and abuse of people with disabilities should never happen, but the distressing truth is that there are vulnerable people in our community who are suffering at the hands of others. It is the responsibility of our community to protect those who find it difficult to protect themselves.

On 1 July 2019, the NSW Government established the Ageing and Disability Commissioner to protect adults with disabilities and elderly people both in the community and in their homes. The idea behind the Commission is to safeguard these vulnerable people from abuse, neglect and exploitation.

This Commission was established after various reviews and inquiries highlighted the need for the government to address issues with the treatment of elderly and disabled members of the community including:

  • The recent Parliamentary inquiry into how the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is operating;

  • The report by the Ombudsman into the abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults in NSW; and

  • The Law Reform Commissioner’s Review of the Guardianship Act.

  • The aim is to strengthen the ability of the Commissioner to respond to abuse, neglect and exploitation of adults with a disability and older people in home and community settings.

But what will the Commissioner do? According to a Facts Sheet published by Family and Community Services, the Commissioner will:

  • Investigate allegations of abuse, neglect and exploitation of adults with disability and older people in home and community settings;

  • Support vulnerable adults and their families or caregivers following an investigation;

  • Report and make recommendations to the government on how to protect these vulnerable people;

  • Raise community awareness and teach people how to prevent abuse, the signs to look out for and how to respond to abuse; and

  • Run the Official Community Visitors program to ensure the services provided to people with disabilities are running well.

The Commissioner will initiate investigations either on their own or following the referral of a complaint by another member of the community. They have been given the power to apply for and execute a search warrant and collect evidence as part of an investigation and will have the ability to share information with other authorities. Crucially, the Commissioner is independent and not directed by a Minister of the Government.

We believe this is a necessary government agency that will hopefully address the issues of elder abuse and abuse of vulnerable people in our community. These groups require protection.

Any member of the community can contact the Ageing and Disability Commissioner to report alleged abuse, neglect or exploitation of a vulnerable person. All it takes is a phone call and we would encourage anyone who feels a report is necessary to pick up the phone and call them.

Situations in which people become vulnerable to abuse can develop over time and are often avoided by good estate planning with use of documents such as a Power of Attorney (to allow a trusted person to make financial decisions on behalf of another person) and/or an appointment of Enduring Guardian (to allow a trusted person to make medical decisions on behalf of another person).

Putting these documents in place early and ensuring that the right people are available to support you can be critical in avoiding undue influence or exploitation in the future.

Ageing and Disability Commissioner:

For abuse of older people and adults with disability call:
NSW Ageing and Disability Abuse Helpline
1800 628 221 (Mon-Fri, 9am – 5pm)

For abuse of children with disability call:
132 111 (24/7)

If you would like to speak to one of our solicitors about the options available, please contact us on 9976 5222.