News & Insights

No excuse for abuse: 4 basics for care providers to get right

Published 27 September 2018

The vast majority of providers in the disability service sector cares deeply about providing clients with respect, dignity and quality of life, but the vulnerability of some clients can lead to risk: from neglect to physical and sexual abuse.

nds insuranceThe National Disability Service has worked hard to minimise this risk. The Zero Tolerance initiative, developed in partnership with the sector, is intended to help providers understand, implement and improve practices that safeguard the clients they support.

The National Standards for Disability Services requires service providers have preventative measures in place to ensure individuals are free from discrimination, exploitation, abuse, harm, neglect and violence.

Below are 4 areas of practical focus for reducing risk.

1. Recruitment and selection

Ensuring you bring people with the right values into your organisation – and stop others at the door – can reduce risk of abuse. Employ the following checks and measures

  • a documented and robust recruitment and selection process that emphasises the values under which the organisation operates
  • publishing job advertisements that emphasise core organisational values and that specify role accountabilities
  • behavioural interview questions that reveal a candidate’s true values and motivations.
  • formal reference and qualification and criminal history checks, which are mandatory for government-funded organisations.

2. Training and professional development

Abuse Prevention Strategies in Specialist Disability Services, a study by the Nucleus Group, identifies the use of untrained workers as an unacceptable management practice, particularly in residential services.

The study stresses the importance of mandatory training on implementing abuse policies as part of staff induction, prior to any client contact.

Training in

  • communication
  • respect and dignity
  • confidentiality
  • appropriate conduct
  • positive attitudes

along with effective support and responding to individual needs can help minimise risk.

Additional training needs may include multidisciplinary collaboration to respond to family-based abuse, and dispute and conflict resolution, and anger management.

3. Policies and procedures

Developing and implementing clear abuse prevention policies and procedures that codify best practice provides a central reference point for everyone from managers to supervisors and employees. Documented guidelines available to all employees make identifying, escalating, reporting and responding to abuse easier.

The higher risk of sexual harassment and abuse in residential services or when dealing with people with learning difficulties may demand specific policies. Similarly the use of restrictive practices can be addressed with policies that clearly outline approved approaches.

4. Feedback and complaints

An accessible documented complaints process in a culture that actively canvasses feedback from service users and staff – and commits to rapid response – can help prevent abuse.

Complaints or feedback from people with a disability, their families, carers and staff should be taken seriously and dealt with promptly and appropriately. Whistle-blower protection encourages staff to speak up about issues of concern in confidence.

Better outcomes

With a combination of appropriate tools and insurance coverage the high risks associated with abuse can be mitigated, making disability services better for both service workers and clients.

Learn more about our National Disability Support Team

Gallagher is the authorised insurance broker for NDS members. 

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