6 May 2013

Call for legal action over care home case

8:40 pm on 6 May 2013

A disability advocate wants legal action taken against the Ministry of Health over its handling of a care home for the intellectually disabled where residents were abused.

Documents released under the Official Information Act show that residents at Parklands, a residential facility on a farm in Pukekawa south of Auckland, were poorly fed and abused by untrained staff.

The ministry received the first complaint about Parklands in 2001, but it was not shut down until September 2012.

Colin Bugering, a disability advocate for the Justice Action group, said he passed on information from residents and past residents to the ministry in 2001, including that one person was beaten with sticks and another force-fed dishwashing liquid because of swearing at the management.

Another complaint said a 15-year-old boy who could not speak was left in a paddock eating grass for long periods of time.

Despite audits and more complaints, the Ministry of Health continued to award contracts to Parklands for more than a decade.

Temporary managers sent in by the ministry in 2012 found it overrun by more than 35 dogs and finances in disarray, and one staff member admitted being a drug addict and stealing medicine.

Auckland lawyer and disability advocate Huhana Hickey said the ministry has failed in its duty to keep its clients safe and should face legal action.

"(The ministry) has a fiduciary duty to ensure that there is a protection of these clients. They did not do their job."

She also wants criminal negligence charges laid against Parklands' owners Neil and Linnaire Joslin.

Dr Hickey said after one complaint is upheld an institution should be put on warning, and after a second, closed down.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Jill Lane said the ministry made a range of interventions over the years, but despite this it became clear at the beginning of 2012 that a tougher look needed to be taken and temporary managers were put in place.

"Once that occurred it was clear to us this service provider was not going to be able to change and so we swiftly took action. Residents were able to move to other providers, where they are very happy."

The Ministry of Health said after terminating Parklands' contract it is not considering prosecuting the owners, but has not explained why.

Radio New Zealand News has contacted the Joslins, but they refused to comment.

Concerns for other care facilities

A disability care advocate is worried some residential care facilities are continuing to operate despite not being up to standard.

Jan Moss is the coordinator of the Complex Care Group Trust, which helps the parents and caregivers of disabled people with complex needs.

Ms Moss said the sector needs to urgently change, as there are other sub-par facilities still operating.

However, an auditor of residential facilities, John Stacey, said the sector is generally in good shape, despite operating on the smell of an oily rag.