Ombudsman’s investigations will ensure the voices of people with learning disabilities are heard

Ombudsman’s investigations will ensure the voices of people with learning disabilities are heard

February 14, 2019

The Ombudsman’s investigations into the oversight of facilities and services for people with learning disabilities is timely says Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero.

The voices of people with learning disabilities have often been unheard or silenced for too long, says Ms Tesoriero.

“This is particularly so when people are living in secure residential facilities and have limited access to independent advocacy,” she says.

Ms Tesoriero says it is vital to evaluate whether the current arrangements protect the rights of people when they were detained or living in controlled environments.

We particularly welcome the Ombudsman’s statement referencing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This will ensure the investigation considers the extent to which people with learning disabilities:

  • maintain the right to give and withdraw consent to any medical treatment
  • can exercise  maximum personal autonomy, choice and control when they are living in restricted environments.
  • can access the right support to express their will and preferences and ensure that these are listened to.

Ms Tesoriero says it is important to investigate whether people with learning disabilities who are living segregated from others have decent living conditions that at least meet the minimum standards set out in human rights conventions.

“A 2017 report by Dr Sharon Shalev indicated that this was not always the case,” she says.

“We need robust processes to ensure people with learning disabilities are not unlawfully detained in inappropriate facilities or detained longer than they would have been had they been through the criminal justice system.

“While this investigation is focussed on the Ministry of Health, it may also shed light on the justice sector processes and whether all the safeguards and guarantees afforded to non-disabled people are also applied to disabled people,” Ms Tesoriero says.

“We also welcome the second investigation examining the data collection about deaths within services. This will be an important contribution to improving practice,” she says.

Details of the Ombudsman’s investigations can be found here.

Dr Shalev’s report can be found here.