No outrage over disability restraints use

No outrage over disability restraints use

National News
The disability royal commission is continuing to hear evidence about group homes.

The disability royal commission is continuing to hear evidence about group homes.

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The law allows "barbaric" restraints extending to what amounts to a form of chemical castration to be used on people living in disability group homes, a royal...

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The law allows "barbaric" restraints extending to what amounts to a form of chemical castration to be used on people living in disability group homes, a royal commission has been told.

Criminologist Claire Spivakovsky says the use of chemical and physical restraints on people with disability should be called out for what it is - a form of violence and abuse.

Dr Spivakovsky questioned the lack of public outrage over the use of what many researchers and activists call "disability-specific lawful violence".

"If they happened in any other context or in relation to any other population, we would be outraged and we would be doing something about this," she told the disability royal commission on Tuesday.

"To me, when we give someone medication forcefully against their will, we strap them down and we hold them down; when we lock them in rooms - that is violence and abuse."

Dr Spivakovsky said footage of a teenager strapped to a chair with a spit-hood over his head in juvenile detention in the Northern Territory immediately sparked outrage and a royal commission.

Yet when it came to the concerning use of physical and chemical restraints in disability group homes, "the law says this is part of what happens to people with disability, so it must be okay".

Dr Spivakovsky said Victoria has supervised treatment orders that apply only to people with intellectual disability who live in group homes and are said to have a pattern of violence or dangerous behaviour.

The orders can be made by a tribunal for up to a year, the University of Melbourne lecturer said.

"That means that a person can have, in essence, a version of chemical castration - giving people quite a significant amount of chemical to change their behaviour," she told the Melbourne hearing.

They could also be locked in their room or in the group home, where typically four-to-six people live.

Dr Spivakovsky said restrictive practices are being used at a concerning rate and it needs to be addressed, particularly in Victoria where legislation allowed the use of restraints and seclusion in group homes.

It included chemical restraints or medication, mechanical devices such as wrist or leg restraints and physical restraint where staff use their body to restrict someone's movement, as well as seclusion.

She said the chemical restraints were often used to control more violent behaviour but also to lower libido or "in essence, chemically castrate someone".

Dr Spivakovsky said mechanical restraints were used less frequently than other forms of restrictive practices, and more so in an education context than in group homes.

"They are, in my opinion, quite barbaric as many of the other ones are as well."

Victoria's public advocate Colleen Pearce said group homes could be considered in some circumstances to be places of detention, where residents were not able to actually leave unsupervised.

She said everyday problems that had been raised included someone having to use a bucket instead of the toilet for many months, and another wearing the same clothes for two weeks.

Australian Associated Press

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