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28 June 2021

NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds and the Morrison Government must explain how a West Australian man was left to die after his family raised the alarm for months that his life was at risk.

Augusta man Jeffery (Jeff) Barker died on 2 May this year. His family had told the NDIA arranged support coordinator that Jeff was in crisis and needed daily check ups or he could die.

Despite raising the alarm on April 20, Jeff, who was aged 50 when he died and had uncontrolled diabetes and severe bipolar, was found unconscious by a carer on May 2. He had not been checked on for several days when he was found.

His family have since discovered that approved regular checks on Jeff and his partner, who also lives with a severe mental illness, were not being conducted and they do not know how long he was unconscious before he was found.

It is the latest in a series of tragedies in the NDIS caused by eight years of Liberal cuts and privatisation.

Deaths by neglect and delinquency include:

  • In South Australia: Ann Marie Smith, who died of severe neglect after being left in a cane chair for more than a year.
  • In NSW: David Harris, who was found dead, months after he died, after the NDIS cut off his supports because he did not attend a planning meeting.
  • In Tasmania: Tim Rubenach, who in 2018 died in severe pain while waiting for the NDIS to send him a new bed and a chair.
  • And in Queensland: Liam Danher, who died earlier this year after months of fighting the NDIA for a seizure mat that his family say could have saved his life.

In a letter to the allocated NDIS coordinator on 20 April, the Barker family, who were told by medical experts that Jeff needed to move hours away from them to be closer to essential disability services, they begged the authorities to check on him to make sure he was eating and taking his insulin.

“Our concern is that he can lose consciousness and if someone is not checking on him daily this could prove fatal,” the Barker family wrote.

Jeff’s family, who he lived with for his entire adult life until June 2020, say the NDIA removing his support services in March 2020 without warning sparked his downward spiral.

As well as pleading to the NDIA and the support coordinator service for help, the Barker family also reached out to Morrison Government Ministers Stuart Robert and Greg Hunt, who did nothing to help them.

This plea was ignored by the Morrison Government. Jeff died.

Only Western Australian Deputy Premier Roger Cook provided support, the family say.

The Barker family have been abandoned by the Morrison Government after the death of their beloved son and brother.

Despite informing the NDIA of Jeff’s death, it did not make any contact with the family beyond a proforma letter, with references for the family to reach out to Lifeline.

The Barker family were also contacted by the NDIA after Jeff’s death and asked to come in for a planning meeting. The NDIA said it was not aware of his death at that time, despite the family telling the care coordinator provider that he had died and Jeff’s services ceasing.

While we welcome an enquiry by the NDIS watchdog and the coroner, for the Barker family it is too little too late and won’t bring back Jeff.

The family did everything they could to work with the NDIA to ensure Jeff was getting the care he needed.

Like the other families whose loved ones have died from neglect on the NDIS, the Barker family wants to ensure this does not happen to anyone else.