On 15 December 2018, Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced that “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”. The Premier noted that this responded to a number of recent reviews including the NSW Ombudsman’s November 2018 report on abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults in NSW.
This e-brief begins by looking at the prevalence of abuse of older people and adults with disability. It then outlines existing NSW agencies that play a role in protecting these groups from abuse. Next, it considers NSW and national review recommendations to establish agencies to protect “vulnerable” or “at-risk” adults from abuse and neglect. The key features of the proposal for a NSW Ageing and Disability Commissioner are then noted. The following sections examine “adult safeguarding laws” that have been enacted in South Australia and other countries.
Adult safeguarding laws seek to protect adults who have full decision-making ability (as well to those who do not) and a key issue with these laws is weighing up the need to protect an adult from harm with the adult’s right to autonomy: i.e. their right to make their own decisions about their lives.