In producing this Report, the co-chairs have met with a large number of people to explore a range of important issues for example developmental safeguards, the unique needs and experience of Aboriginal people with disabilities, children and young people, and people from culturally and linguistically diverse groups.
For all safeguarding measures there is no silver bullet — no single measure that will completely solve the problem. There need to be multiple approaches to ensure all matters are covered.
Vulnerability is increased by:
- (a) social isolation from family, friends and neighbours,
- (b) lack of proper care from a service provider,
- (c) the NDIA not having external systems of checks through support coordination or local area coordination,
- (d) the Commission not having an adequate system in place to vet the quality of the services and to respond to concerns about individuals, and
- (e) the State government not having adequate mechanisms for people to access regular health checks, the ASU or community visitors and advocacy.
We need to look for triggers. We have a person with severe physical disabilities, why were there not more questions asked about them? Where were they, what are they doing and why did they never get in a taxi?
There are significant flaws in the current system of safeguarding and the following fixes:
First, The NDIA needs to ensure that that they are aware of participants who are vulnerable and that, for them, there is ongoing independent support coordination in their plans and that plans cover health and equipment needs and are fully implemented. The NDIA must develop a methodology to assess the potential vulnerability of participants as part of the planning process, and put supports in place according to the participant’s level of vulnerability. Plans also need to reflect the cultural needs of participants as well as their physical and social needs.
Second, the Commission needs to accept complaints/concerns/warnings from the general public or other agencies in whatever form they come as alerts requiring investigation and must require regular supervision of in-home workers by service providers as a condition of registration. The person with disability may prefer to rely on some electronic forms of monitoring rather than other people coming into the home regularly.
Third, the State needs to ensure that regular medical checks are available for vulnerable people, that the ASU is available for all vulnerable adults and that a community visitor scheme is in place to be additional eyes and ears to safeguard participants.
The State has transferred responsibility for the funding and regulation of disability services to the Commonwealth and the NDIS. It is, however, responsible for those specific tasks that are left to it under the NDIS agreement, namely, screening of workers, the authorisation of restrictive practices and community visitor arrangements.
The NDIS has an admirable philosophy that the individual with a disability is to be empowered with:
- (a) choice of lifestyle and service providers, and
- (b) control over the way that funding in their plan is used.
In a nutshell, the NDIS is an insurance-based arrangement whereby the NDIS is responsible for funding and broad system parameters but does not take responsibility when things go wrong for the individual. The risk and the responsibility is deemed to lie with the individual participant.
The best safeguard for any potentially vulnerable individual is to have a number of people in their lives, who make sure the person is not left to their own devices when things go wrong. At least one of the extra pair of eyes seeing what is going on should come from proper supervision of support workers by the service provider agency, and ensuring that more than one support worker is involved, even if the participant only wants a single person whom they trust and respect.
We need to increase the capacity of people with disability to be more independent, make good choices and connect better with the community. Capacity building, linked closely to ‘a good life’, is seen by experts to be the key to avoiding abuse and neglect.
The South Australian Minister’s Disability Advisory Council 2011 - Inclusion & protection report