The devil will be in the detail but we broadly welcome that the Morrison Government has heeded Labor’s calls for an independent investigation into the death of Ann-Marie Smith.
This inquiry should be truly independent, Minister Stuart Robert must guarantee the full findings will be released to the public, and it must be broadened to also look at what went wrong in the case of David Harris, an NDIS participant who was found dead in his house more than two months after his supports had been cut off.
Just as the loved ones of Ms Smith deserve to know that others will not be victims of failings in the system so do the surviving loved ones of Mr Harris.
While a good start, the current scope of the inquiry - the NDIS Quality and Safeguard Commission’s regulation (or lack thereof) of the late Ms Smith’s service provider Integrity Care - is clearly too limited.
The inquiry should be free to look at broader considerations such as:
• Whether the $30m-a-year Commission has been a toothless watchdog across multiple cases not just that of Ms Smith’s provider
• Whether deaths-in-home by neglect of NDIS participants has been exacerbated by the removal of $4.6b from the Scheme
There also remains a clear residual conflict of the Commission appointing the investigator and the investigator reporting back to the subject of his inquiry.
The investigator should have subpoena powers and disability advocates should be supported if they wish to engage with the process.
With those caveats we welcome the appointment of an investigator who is at least ostensibly separate from the NDIA and the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission.
This is an improvement on NDIS Minister Stuart Robert’s previous approach of burying his head in the sand, albeit a change only brought about by public pressure.
Now the Government must do the right thing by the memory of David Harris.
TUESDAY, 26 MAY 2020