A powerful and independent Ageing and Disability Commissioner will be established in NSW to investigate, and stamp out, the abuse of older people, and adults with disability.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the new Ageing and Disability Commissioner will start operations from 1 July 2019 to help protect older people and adults with disability in home and community settings.
“We will not tolerate the abuse, neglect and exploitation of older people, or people with disability,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“That’s why we are introducing a powerful and independent Commissioner to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens are protected.”
The Commissioner will investigate allegations of abuse, neglect and exploitation and will provide support to vulnerable adults and their families/carers following investigations. It will also raise community awareness about abuse, neglect and exploitation, including providing advice on preventing, identifying and responding to potential issues.
The Commissioner will be given special powers which will include:
- The power to initiate investigations on its own motion, or following a referral or complaint;
- The power to apply for and execute a search warrant, and seize evidence, as part of an investigation; and
- Information gathering and sharing powers.
The establishment of the Commissioner will bring together and expand on the work of the Elder Abuse Helpline and Resource Unit, and the NSW Ombudsman’s Standing Inquiry.
Minister for Disability Services Ray Williams said the NSW Government has listened and responded decisively to community requests for a Commissioner.
“The new Commissioner will help ensure that all people with disability know they can be protected from exploitation and neglect in the community,” Mr Williams said.
Minister for Ageing Tanya Davies said the Commissioner will strengthen the ability of agencies to respond to allegations of abuse, neglect or exploitation of older people reported through the Elder Abuse Helpline and Resource Unit.
“Too often, abuse happens behind closed doors and is perpetrated by a trusted family member, which is why we are giving the Commissioner the power to leave no stone unturned as we seek to end this abhorrent crime,” Mrs Davies said.
The Commissioner will work closely with the new Specialist Elder Abuse Officers, who will be introduced in each NSW Police command, to undertake crime prevention and investigate matters which involve a criminal offence.
The establishment of the Commissioner responds to a number of recent reviews, including the NSW Parliamentary Inquires into the Implementation of the NDIS and Elder Abuse, the Ombudsman’s recent special report on abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults in NSW, and the NSW Law Reform Commission’s Review of the Guardianship Act.