Disability carer told to pay over sexual misconduct
Major disability services provider Life Without Barriers should pay "ex gratia" compensation to a woman who experienced alleged sexual misconduct by one of its workers, a royal commission report has found.
The woman, known by the pseudonym Natalie, was living at one of the company's group homes in Lismore when she was allegedly inappropriately dealt with by a male worker on a number of occasions while she was naked.
Several complaints were made about the male worker by other staff members including that he pinched Natalie on the stomach and placed himself in positions to "unnecessarily view" and at times touch her while she received personal care.
The company also failed to address the sexual assault of another resident from the same home, known as Sophie, that occurred off the premises, according to the report.
Sophie was picked up from the home one night in 2017 by a man she had met online who would go on to sexually assault her and later be convicted and sentenced for the offence.
Life Without Barriers failed to promptly remove the worker who engaged in the sexual misconduct or adequately provide support for the sexual assault victim, a commissioner's report released on Tuesday found.
It recommended the company consider making a payment to Natalie as compensation for the worker's conduct, despite having no legal obligation to do so.
The worker was ultimately acquitted of committing any crime.
Life Without Borders chief executive Claire Robbs apologised for the sexual misconduct incident during her evidence to the commission, acknowledging the "pain and trauma" Natalie and her family experienced.
However, Ms Robbs has since been reluctant to accept the "significant issues" with her company's operations identified during the inquiry, according to the commissioner's report.
A spokeswoman for Life Without Barriers said the company accepts the report and its recommendations and acknowledges the negative experiences of those in its care.
"We take this opportunity to reiterate our deep regret for these experiences and we are taking action to ensure they never happen again," the spokeswoman said.
Another property operated by Life Without Barriers in Melbourne was also found by the report to have failed to address acts of interpersonal violence between residents.
The report found in the case of Sophie, the company had created "relationship rules" that affected the way she carried out intimate relationships - including prohibiting her from having visitors after 6pm.
It found the rules did not support Sophie's right to intimacy or respect her privacy and undermined her sense of having a real home.
The report recommended the company promptly make all policies readily available to residents, their families and any staff who might be affected by them.
The findings stem from public hearing 20 of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability in late 2021, which specifically examined disability service providers.