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Disability advocate wants law overhaul

Violence is ''scarily common'' in residential accommodation for people with disabilities and is systemically accepted, according to a disability advocacy group.

In a submission to the ACT government, Advocacy for Inclusion has called for an overhaul of domestic violence laws to provide greater security for people with disabilities, including those living in disability group homes or relying on paid or unpaid carers.

''People with disabilities live with daily violence. It seems to be systemically accepted, or staff are simply inured to it after years of having no alternative to violence,'' the submission said.

Advocacy for Inclusion general manager Christina Ryan said violence was extremely common in group homes for people with disabilities.

''It's scarily common. You can actually end up with houses becoming extremely unpleasant,'' she said.

Ms Ryan said some people with disabilities were often given little choice about where they lived and could end up in group facilities where they were unhappy.

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Some people with communication difficulties expressed themselves by lashing out.

''You can actually have situations where everybody in the house is being violent towards each other. It's just what happens,'' she said.

Ms Ryan said problems were often addressed by sending people to respite care for extended periods or moving them to other group homes - regardless of whether they wanted to go or not. But sometimes violence was simply accepted.

''We've had situations where people have just been left there because, 'they'll get used to each other and it will stop','' Ms Ryan said.

Advocacy for Inclusion wanted the ACT Domestic Violence and Protection Orders Act amended to incorporate the broader NSW definition of a household.

Ms Ryan said this would give police and other authorities greater power to intervene and use tools such as apprehended violence orders when people with disabilities suffered domestic violence.

''If they've got the capacity to intervene, you can treat it like any other act of domestic violence,'' she said.

The ACT government is considering an overhaul of domestic violence laws, including adopting definitions of domestic relationships used in NSW. A spokesman for Community Services Minister Joy Burch said protocols were in place for dealing with incidents in group homes.

''As an incident arises, they are treated on a case-by-case basis by the directorate and the service providers,'' the spokesman said.

''At all times, the priority is to secure and maintain the safety of the person and those people around them. It is not a common occurrence and once known it is responded to swiftly.''

Disability ACT had a service audit process and worked closely with individual clients, families, carers, the providers and where appropriate, the Disability Service Commission, Public Advocate, police and mental health staff.