NDIS provider accused of failing to protect support worker from sexual assault by customer

South Australia’s work safety watchdog is taking legal action against an Adelaide disability service provider alleging it failed to protect a support worker from sexual assault by a customer.

The male client in his 20s pleaded guilty to assault with intent to rape in the June 2020 incident.

Last July, the man was sentenced to three years and four weeks in prison, with a period without parole of 19 months.

The sentencing judge said he had “severe intellectual disability” and autism spectrum disorder, as well as a history of sexual offenses against women.

Court documents say the support worker had worked in the industry for 30 years before the offense ‘turned her workplace into a place of horror’.

SafeWork SA has now taken legal action against SA Support Services for alleged violations of occupational health and safety laws.

In labor court documents obtained by the CBA, SafeWork SA alleged that SA’s support services failed to ensure a safe work environment for the support worker.

The documents indicate that the supplier was “aware … [the client’s] inappropriate behavior has increased”.

“It continued to be possible for [the client] leave the structure in which he resided … [and] it was possible for [the client] to enter other structures in the workplace,” he said.

Claims of proper risk assessments have not been made

SafeWork SA alleged that SA’s support services failed to perform adequate risk assessments, or provide adequate information or instructions to the support worker about the risks posed by the male client.

“Defendant did not provide … or require the worker to wear a personal duress alarm, such as a personal belt-clip alarm,” he said.

“The defendant failed to ensure that the worker was instructed to call for help, to withdraw and/or to lock the residence in which she was residing under certain circumstances, such as when encountering [the client] all alone.”

SA Assistance Services and the National Disability Insurance Agency have both been contacted for comment.

According to its website, SA Support Services is a non-profit organization operating in Murray Bridge, Mount Barker, Hahndorf, Parkside and Glenunga.

“We specialize in providing services to adults with cognitive, psychosocial, developmental and psychiatric disabilities through the provision of housing and assisted living support,” the website states.

The breach alleged by SafeWork SA is classified as a minor criminal offense under South Australia’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The parties are expected to attend a direction hearing next month.

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