Vulnerable person was hit by a shoe and assaulted at church home for disabled

Police have issued charges against two carers 

Police have issued charges against two carers
Police have issued charges against two carers

A person with a disability at Dar Arka was hit with a shoe by a female carer and later assaulted by her partner, MaltaToday can reveal. 

The shocking incident happened on 1 May at the Gozo church home run by Fondazzjoni Arka and the victim was left with a blackeye. 

The case first came to light on 24 May when Inclusion Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli said the Social Care Standards Authority had roped in the police after it received an anonymous tip on the abuse perpetrated by two carers at the church home. No details were given. 

However, sources privy to the investigation told MaltaToday the victim, who is non-verbal, pulled the hair of a female carer after she refused to get up from the sofa where he habitually sits. 

In a bid to disengage, the female carer used her shoe to hit the person, while other carers who witnessed the incident just looked on. 

However, the sources said there was a second incident later on that day when the carer’s male partner returned from an outing with other residents of the home. 

The male carer rushed towards the resident, who had earlier pulled his partner’s hair, hitting him on the chest, shouting at him and aggressively pointing his finger in his face. It is understood that the victim sustained a black eye in the second incident. 

Once again, other carers who witnessed the second incident of abuse, including the man’s partner, did not intervene. 

Both incidents were caught on CCTV but no incident report was filed and the vulnerable person’s guardians were not informed. 

When asked about the investigation, police told MaltaToday that charges have been issued and presented in court against the two carers. They will be arraigned by summons not under arrest. 

Both carers were suspended from Dar Arka after the case was referred to the police by the SCSA that had been investigating the case following an anonymous tip off. 

According to its website, the Arka Foundation is a voluntary, non-governmental organization that promotes the welfare of people with special needs and their families. It runs three residential homes in Gozo. 

Sources said officials from the authority made at least three unannounced visits to the home after receiving information about the incident involving the female carer. 

The CCTV footage of the first incident was only made available to the authority by the home’s director Fr Michael Galea in the second visit after initially saying the cameras were not working. 

Sources said the female carer was initially given a verbal warning by the home and then issued with a written and signed warning over her aggressive behaviour. 

However, it was only on the third visit that the SCSA became aware of the second incident involving the male partner, who was also issued with a written warning by the home. The second incident was not flagged to the SCSA officials by the home’s management in the previous visits. 

It was at this point that the authority referred the matter to the police for further investigation. 

Offenders register for those who abuse persons with a disability 

The incident prompted the government to propose the introduction of an offenders register for people found guilty of abusing persons with a disability. 

Speaking in parliament last week, Farrugia Portelli said the law would require all homes to check whether prospective employees are listed in the register before engaging them. 

The minister is expected to put forward legislation to set up the register in the coming months. 

She also said that all government homes would be introducing CCTV cameras in all common areas and the SCSA was reviewing its policies in this regard. 

Farrugia Portelli had said persons with a disability can be non-verbal and unable to explain that someone has abused them. “Others may be unaware of the abuse they are being subjected to and this is why we have to send a strong message against these vile acts.” 

The minister told parliament that the vast majority of carers were responsible persons, who worked with dedication. 

“Their job is not a walk in the park – they come in contact with cases and situations of challenging behaviour, which requires carers to be trained for these circumstances... I believe that the introduction of an offenders’ register will close some of the gaps in the system and serve as a deterrent for those who earn a living from this sector,” she said.