A disability advocate today laid a complaint with police over the alleged neglect of IHC resident Anna Mills because Whaikaha, the Ministry of Disabled People, has not.
And a second advocate said she will also make a complaint to police over what she described as “gross neglect” that could have ended Anna’s life.
Last week the Herald revealed Anna, 38, was found by her sister in an IDEA Services residential care home “critically unwell”, malnourished, dehydrated, in soiled bedsheets, and weighing 35kg.
Her sister Sarah-Jane Mills removed Anna from the Gisborne home and complained to the Health and Disability Commissioner [HDC], Human Rights Commission and Ombudsman.
She welcomed news that disability advocates Glenn Marshall and Jane Carrigan, independently of each other, want police to investigate the matter.
“I want justice for my sister,” Mills said. “I don’t know how I’m going to get justice for my sister but something needs to happen.”
Mills, who took her sister home to recover, was grateful to the advocates for wading in.
“When you are caring for somebody full-time there’s no time, and I think when someone else goes into bat for you that’s proof that it’s a serious issue that needs addressing.”
It comes as Whaikaha released to Carrigan under the Official Information Act that an average of 120 critical incidents, including notifications of abuse or neglect, are reported to the Ministry each month from across the sector.
Carrigan, who said just one critical incident was too many, wrote to Whaikaha on Monday as well as the Minister of Police Chris Hipkins, insisting Anna’s case should be a police complaint.
Under Section 195 of the Crimes Act it is an offence to neglect or ill-treat a child or vulnerable adult, and failure to protect either can result in a prison term.
Today Marshall, a voluntary disability advocate who removed his profoundly disabled son Eamon Marshall from IDEA Services care several years ago, made a formal complaint to police.
Anna was removed from IDEA Services’ care by Mills four months ago after she claims she found her sister not eating, barely able to sit up, severely malnourished and underweight, and lying in her own urine and faeces.
Anna, who has myotonic dystrophy, the same progressive muscle-wasting genetic condition her mother died with, told Mills she was now worried about “her people” - the other residents she lived with.
“Anna just doesn’t want this to happen to anyone else.”
IDEA Services said it could not comment on the case while it was before the HDC. The largest disability services provider, which received $315 million from the Government in the last financial year, did not notify the Ministry of the case.
Whaikaha was blindsided by Anna’s story and was now seeking urgent answers but stopped short of saying it would conduct a review of IDEA Services.
The Ministry, newly launched in July, said it was considering an investigation into the case but Carrigan said any review of IDEA Services should be independent of Whaikaha.
“This matter is a police matter,” Carrigan said. “Everyone should be under scrutiny including and especially the Ministry of Disabled People [MODP],” she wrote in her letter to Hipkins.
“The MODP keep advising us that nothing has changed within the new Ministry. Alarmingly that is true, and which is why we can expect these cases to keep on continuing until those in charge start being held to account,” she wrote.
Marshall, who complained to the Ombudsman last month regarding IDEA Service’s bath ban, told Whaikaha he would make a complaint to the police about Anna’s care if the Ministry did not act.
“All I’m asking for is the police to do an independent criminal investigation. At the very least the police need to do an investigation and ask these questions... does the care provided to Anna meet the threshold of criminal conduct?”
The Herald asked Whaikaha whether it was conducting a review of IDEA Services and if it would make a complaint to police about Anna’s care.
Operational design and delivery deputy chief executive Amanda Bleckmann said in a statement: “We take these allegations extremely seriously”.
She said a complaint had not been lodged with police and a review was not under way into Anna’s care.
“As we’ve said, we are working through next steps.”