SA carer fronts court over assaulting teen with cerebral palsy

Weeks after the release of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Quality and Safeguards Commission report showed more than a million cases of unauthorised restraints on clients in a year, a SA carer has fronted court for assault.

ABC News has reported a carer who was caught on a home security camera assaulting a teenager with cerebral palsy has been sentenced to eight months on home detention.

The Adelaide Magistrates Court last November 19 heard Patricia Rosanna Tirimacco, 54, had been the young man’s carer for more than a decade and had become a part of the family.

The court heard if it was not for the victim’s father randomly checking his home security camera on his mobile phone while he was out of the house, the crimes would never have been detected.

The CCTV videos showed Tirimacco pushing a sofa cushion into the 19-year-old’s face for four seconds, hitting him with the cushion and also slapping him across the face with her hand after waving her hands playfully in front of his face.

Tirimacco pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated assault.

The ABC reported Magistrate Koula Kossiavelos said the crimes were difficult to detect and it was important to deter others from committing similar crimes against vulnerable victims.

“There have been royal commissions into how our disabled people are looked after as well as our aged people, it is a very sensitive area in our community and it’s an area that needs more exploration because we don’t have many cases that are detected because people like this victim cannot speak up for themselves,” Ms Kossiavelos said.

The court heard the consequences of the crimes had a ripple effect on the whole family, including trusting other carers. The victim was visibly upset after the incident and his family told the court that he did not smile for six months after the assault.

Tirimacco’s court date came mere weeks after the release of figures from the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission which showed NDIS providers used unauthorised restraints on clients – such as sedating or strapping down a person, or depriving them of their personal belongings – more than one million times in 2020-21.

That’s a whopping 240% increase on reported such incidents from the previous 12 months, prompting calls for an inquiry.

The federal government last year said the commonwealth and states had agreed to “work to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, the use of restrictive practices on people with disability”.

But Guardian Australia reports there were 585,847 (56%) reports of unauthorised “chemical” restraint, such as the use of sedatives to manage client behaviour, a 229% increase on the 2020-21 figure.

The NDIS commission’s own guidelines note “an over-reliance on the use of medication to address behaviours of concern in people with disability” and warn of the possibility of long-term negative side-effects.

The commission said there were also 376,575 reports of the unauthorised use of “environmental” restraints, which can refer to restricting a client’s access to part of their own home or denying access to personal possessions like a mobile phone or television.

The Guardian reported the commission was notified of 63,795 instances where an unauthorised “mechanical” restraint was used (for example strapping a person down, or forcing them to wear splints, gloves, a helmet or other equipment) and 4794 instances of unauthorised physical restraint.

This might include physically holding a person down while they display “behaviours of concern”.

The NDIS regulations governing restraints – covering chemical, environmental, physical and seclusion – can be found here.

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