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‘Negligence and abuse’: Regional NDIS scheme failing the most vulnerable

Oliver LaneSouth Western Times
Mr Schonell says the current system is leaving people with a disability at risk of harm.
Camera IconMr Schonell says the current system is leaving people with a disability at risk of harm. Credit: Oliver Lane

Advocates for people with a disability have raised the alarm at the NDIS supported housing system, saying incidents and accidents often go unreported due to fear of retribution in the wake of the death of a man in an Australind NDIS-funded home.

Advocacy WA chief executive officer Stuart Schonell said his organisation had heard countless claims of emotionally and sometimes physically abusive behaviour by support workers working for NDIS providers.

The claims come after a 40-year-old man died in hospital after being allegedly attacked by his housemate Chad Hardy, 33.

Mr Schonell said incidents at support homes which could harm residents were common and poorly followed up on.

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“For us, this is not a surprise, this sort of stuff happens all the time and often goes unreported even though it’s supposed to be,” he said.

“The NDIS has pretty clear standards around having policies, procedures and practices in place to make sure these sorts of things don’t happen.

“Our issue with the fact is that often the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission don’t seem to be doing enough to police it.”

The lack of options open to NDIS participants in regional areas was of particular concern for Mr Schonell as he said a lack of choice led people to not report incidents.

“We often come across clients who are too afraid to report injuries and incidents that have occurred for them because they don’t want to lose their place in the only accommodation provider in their town,” he said.

“They also don’t want to see the only provider closed down because they’re failing to comply with NDIS standards so they just don’t want to complain about it, it’s too risky for them.

“There’s a limited numbers of providers, they get to set the price and bad luck if you’re a participant, you’ve got to pay it.”

The royal commission into violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability recently put out 222 recommendations to improve the system.

Mr Schonell said the recommendations were necessary and he wanted some to be fast-tracked to stop the problems worsening.

In particular he said recommendations 10.11, improving internal monitoring of reportable incidents, 10.13, establishing an independent panel of investigators and 10.14 developing a model procedure for NDIS providers should be enacted as soon as possible.

“The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission really need to jump on board and start implementing recommendations from the royal commission now,” he said.

A spokesperson for the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission said the Australind incident was being looked into.

“The death that occurred last week at the Supported Independent Living residence in Australind was reported to the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission by the provider in accordance with their obligations as a registered NDIS provider,” they said.

“The NDIS Commission will take firm action in relation to any information which suggests that neglect and abuse has occurred.

“Similarly, the NDIS Commission will act if any participant is disadvantaged as a result of making a complaint or reporting an incident.”

The spokesperson said after a specialist team was created in late 2022 to respond to claims nearly 1000 referrals were responded to in less than two days, an investigation was now under way.

“A specialist safeguarding team was established in late 2022 by the NDIS Commission to respond quickly to complaints that identify an immediate risk to NDIS participants, and ensure that providers and other agencies on the ground are taking rapid action to address risk,” they said.

“On 31 July this was extended to include reportable incidents.”

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