The chief executive of a care provider being probed by the disability royal commission says the organisation has not always lived up to the values it “holds dear”.
Sunnyfield Disability Services boss Caroline Cuddihy on Wednesday faced the inquiry, which has heard allegations of abuse and a toxic culture at a group home the not-for-profit operates in western Sydney.
Two support workers at the home were sacked in recent years after being charged with assaulting residents, the inquiry has heard.
The charges were dismissed in court due to a lack of evidence.
Eliza, the guardian and older sister of Melissa, a disabled 23-year-old woman who requires round-the-clock care, has claimed Sunnyfield tried to evict her sibling in 2018.
Eliza told the inquiry the decision was made out of “spite” after she raised complaints about her sister’s level of care.
Ms Cuddihy was asked broadly about how Sunnyfield responds to feedback and said the organisation values and respects complaints.
“That is something that we should hold dear to and I am aware that wasn’t always the case, in particular to this house that is the subject of this commission’s inquiry,” she said.
“I do apologise that our organisation hasn’t always lived in reality what we hold dear to our hearts.”
Counsel assisting the inquiry Kate Eastman asked whether Sunnyfield has a “low tolerance” for people making complaints.
“No, not at all. Not at all,” Ms Cuddihy replied.
The inquiry heard none of Sunnyfield’s 12 board members are people with a disability, and just one director has worked in the provision of disability services.
Commissioner Rhonda Galbally said it was now “quite a common approach” for disability service providers to have a person with a disability and a community leader on their board.
Sunnyfield operates 48 shared independent living homes containing 215 residents.
Ms Cuddihy said she undertakes day visits to the homes “once a quarter, if not more frequently” for one or two hours at a time.
The commission has previously heard from Jennifer Piaud, who investigated the home’s culture on an independent basis.
She said it was “one of the more dysfunctional workplaces” she had observed in her career and staff felt intimidated, leading to a failure to report or an under-reporting of incidents.
Ms Cuddihy, who has been Sunnyfield’s chief executive since 2010, said the organisation has a very strong continuous improvement philosophy.
“Needless to say, the matters that happened at the house that is the subject of this commission’s inquiry caused grave concern for the organisation,” she said.
“We would certainly never ever want that to ever happen. We are always open to how we can improve what we do.”
Ms Cuddihy will continue giving evidence on Thursday.