EOC article: Urgent call to protect people with disabilities living in residential care homes
Prof. Alfred CHAN Cheung-Ming
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) is deeply disappointed that the sexual assault case involving the former superintendant of a private residential care home for people with disabilities (PWDs) had to be dropped by the court and that the rights of the victim, a former resident of the care home, are not protected. That said, the EOC will not comment on the details of the case, as there may be further new developments.
Residential care homes for PWDs provide accommodation and care services for PWDs who are in need. Under the Residential Care Homes (Persons with Disabilities) Ordinance, all residential care homes for PWDs are regulated through a licensing system. For the care home in question, people offered their trust because it has a licence － the same way patients trust their doctors. As the person in charge of a residential care home, the superintendent must ensure the smooth operation of the institution and that its residents receive proper care. It is absolutely intolerable for a superintendant to take advantage of/abuse any resident of the care home he/she manages. Any such act not only causes serious harm to the victim and his/her family, but also damages the public’s trust in the licensing system and the operators and employees of care homes.
Regarding the case, I hope the Government will tighten regulation of residential care homes for PWDs and step up on-site inspections to prevent similar incidents from occurring. To better protect PWDs living in residential care homes, I would also like to urge their families and friends and social workers to pay closer attention to their behaviour and emotions. If they notice anything unusual, they should seek help from the care homes or the related Government departments.
This case serves as a wake-up call to the Government and the public about the insufficiencies of the licensing system for residential care homes for PWDs, the regulation of the services and code of conduct of these care homes, and protection for their residents. The Government must step up on-site inspections and improve the licensing system to better control the operation of residential care homes for PWDs.
Under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance, PWDs are protected from discrimination in employment, education, and the provision of services and goods. Meanwhile, the Sex Discrimination Ordinance protects all members of the public from sexual harassment in areas prescribed by the law. Members of the public, including PWDs and their families, can make complaints or enquiries to the EOC when needed and the EOC will provide assistance as best it can.