Responding to abuse, neglect and exploitation - Disability Services, Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services (Queensland Government)

Responding to abuse, neglect and exploitation

Anyone who witnesses or is notified about an incident or allegation of abuse, neglect and exploitation in relation to a person with disability should take action.

People working in the disability services sector, schools or health services should be familiar with the specific policies and procedures for responding to abuse, neglect and exploitation that apply within their organisation.

In all other instances, when responding to abuse, take the steps outlined below.

Step 1: Protect the person.

Make the person who has experienced abuse safe, provide medical assistance as required, and/or remove the source of harm or potential harm from the person (e.g. other people, harmful objects).

Explain to the person what is happening and that it is not their fault.

Step 2: Preserve and record the evidence.

Where relevant, and especially for criminal acts, maintain the scene of the incident, take photos and protect any personal articles involved. Write down what you know. Include what you know about the situation, the people and services involved, and any witnesses. Consider telling someone you trust.

Step 3: Report the incident immediately.

All criminal acts or deaths must be reported to the Queensland Police Service.

All information and reports must be kept confidential to protect people’s rights and privacy.

Staff and managers in funded disability services: Report the incident/complaint immediately (or as quickly as possible if outside normal business hours) to your line manager or an appropriate person within your organisation who is not involved in the matter. Immediately report criminal acts or deaths to the police. In line with your service’s policies, record the complaint, write an incident report and follow processes for dealing with incidents, complaints and allegations.

Through the service agreement funded disability services sign with the department, providers are required to have, maintain, implement and act in accordance with policies consistent with the department’s Critical Incident Reporting Policy.

Staff and managers in Department of Communities (Disability Services) provided disability services: Make verbal and written critical incident reports following the Critical Incident Reporting Policy. Incidents must be reported immediately or within given timelines, and criminal acts or deaths must immediately be reported to the police by the senior manager and, in the case of a reportable death, to the coroner.

People with disability, families, carer, support persons and friends: Report a criminal act or death immediately to the police. Where the matter relates to an individual or group within a service, it is normally advisable to contact management at the service to see if it can be satisfactorily dealt with through the organisation’s complaints resolution processes and/or in conjunction with the police before taking it to other authorities.

Step 4: Support the abused person as well as the whistle-blower or complainant.

Take steps to support and protect the person who has experienced abuse and the whistle-blower, if applicable. Ensure that they are not subject to retribution and stop any attempts at further abuse or retribution. Disability services are required to have policies and procedures in place to ensure support and protection both for people who have experienced abuse and for whistle-blowers, and to prevent retribution. Actions may include:

  • involving victim support services
  • counselling for staff, clients or other whistle-blowers
  • temporarily moving persons who have experienced abuse and informants
  • suspending staff suspected of perpetrating abuse.

Step 5: If necessary, take the matter further.

If the matter is not resolved satisfactorily through internal processes at a service, or a complainant or whistle-blower does not feel able to safely take it up with  management, the matter can be taken further. Who to contact next depends on what type of matter it is and what has happened already.

When an incident of abuse, neglect and exploitation occurs or is reported, disability service staff and managers should follow their organisation’s policies and procedures, which should reflect the steps outlined above.

Please note that this process will usually occur over a short time period, with some actions occurring simultaneously.

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