Minister sorry for death of ex-NDIS man

·2-min read

Two years after David Harris lost his disability funding and died at home in western Sydney, his family has an apology from the federal government.

His decomposed body was found two months after he was cut from the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

"I am deeply sorry and I absolutely offer my condolences to the family," NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds told a Senate estimates hearing on Friday.

Mr Harris lived with a psychiatric condition and diabetes, and his funding stopped after he missed an annual review with the National Disability Insurance Agency.

An autopsy failed to establish the cause of death.

An inquest was announced in December 2020 after a public campaign about his death.

Labor senator Kimberley Kitching is concerned it is another case of neglect and preventable death.

"Did it not occur to anyone to phone when he missed a meeting?" Senator Kitching said.

"He was dead for two months before anyone found him," she said.

"Obviously it's not just Mr Harris who has perhaps died in a way that was unnecessary and in a totally undignified way, with no care."

Ann Marie Smith, who was under the care of the NDIS, died in Adelaide last year from profound neglect.

"That's why I'm asking these questions because there should not be a single person, let alone more than one," Senator Kitching said.

The cases have led to change at the federal disability agency.

Disability regulator Graeme Head said he has been working with the NDIA on how to better flag the risk of harm, particularly for people whose links to others are more fragile.

"People's circumstances change, they lose contact with family members, they may lose contact with support workers," he said.

National Disability Insurance Agency chief executive Martin Hoffman said the inquest "hasn't commenced in any significant way" but he has not waited.

A detailed internal review of the circumstances has led to changes in approach to the ending of plans and the continuation of plans, and profiling vulnerability.

"It led to and has contributed to changes we have made around our check-in process with participants," he said.

But Senator Reynolds said the agency did not have a public guardian role.

The NSW coroner will conduct the inquest.

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