Queensland Public Guardian backs calls from Public Advocate to regulate the use of restrictive practices in residential aged care

This World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Queensland Public Guardian Natalie Siegel-Brown supports today’s calls from Queensland Public Advocate Mary Burgess for the Australian Government to regulate the use of restrictive practices in residential aged care.

“The excessive use of restrictive practices presents one of the greatest potential infringements of human rights my office deals with, and I am a passionate advocate for the reduction and elimination of restrictive practices across all service sectors.” Ms Siegel-Brown said.

“We have many clients living in aged care facilities, and they really are among some of Queensland’s most vulnerable citizens. That’s why I fully back Ms Burgess’ call for the implementation of a legal framework, and share her frustration at the lack of action at a federal level on this issue.

“While I appreciate that residential aged care staff may be under a great deal of pressure, the use of restrictive practices should never be a substitute for inadequate resources, and its use under these circumstances is a serious contravention of a person’s human rights.

“There needs to be a framework in place to hold residential aged care providers accountable, and ensure that they are required to make every effort to analyse and understand the driving causes and triggers of harmful behaviors. The onus needs to be put on a requirement to pursue therapeutic interventions that reduce and eliminate the need for restrictive practices.”

Ms Siegel Brown also noted that World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is a timely opportunity to highlight that the Office of The Public Guardian has the ability to receive allegations of abuse, neglect, exploitation or inappropriate decision making in regard to Queensland adults with impaired decision making capacity, investigate those allegations and take direct action.

Approximately 80 percent of investigations carried out by the office relate to adults aged 65 years or older, with the perpetrator nearly always being a family member.

“The investigations function of the Queensland Office of the Public Guardian is the only one of its kind in Australia, and to the best of our knowledge, the world.” Ms Siegel-Brown said.

“What makes it unique is my power to both investigate allegation of abuse, and to take action where these allegations are substantiated. This allows my office to quickly take action where abuse is suspected, and there are many cases where we have rescued an adult from truly horrific circumstances”

The action the Public Guardian can take includes suspending a Power of Attorney immediately and inserting herself as attorney for personal and health matters (and the Public Trustee for financial affairs) for the person experiencing abuse, for up to 3 months. It also includes being able to cross-examine the accused person in certain instances – and importantly, to execute a warrant to remove a person who is at immediate risk of harm.

Anyone is able to report suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation of an adult with impaired decision making capacity to the Public Guardian by calling 1300 651 192.

“It’s everyone’s responsibility to make sure those who are most vulnerable are protected.” Ms Siegel-Brown said

Office of the Public Guardian media contact: (07) 3006 2589 or commed@publicguardian.qld.gov.au