Disability deaths under inquiry spotlight

·2-min read

The deaths of three Australians with disability have been put under the spotlight at a Senate inquiry looking at the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Liam Danher died in February this year after having a seizure in his sleep.

His parents had been trying to get him a mattress with a seizure alarm so they could monitor and move him.

The mattress had been recommended by the 23-year-old's healthcare team but it did not arrive.

NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds said she was deeply saddened about the death, after Liam's parents sent her a letter asking for answers.

"I cannot imagine the grief that they are going through," she told a Senate estimates in Canberra on Monday.

"I will be very happy to meet with them if they would like to meet with me, to discuss this matter. I will certainly write back to them and answer their many questions."

Labor's NDIS spokesman Bill Shorten said the minister must apologise.

He says the government spent more money trying to prevent the Cairns man getting the mattress than what it would have cost for him to receive it.

"The Danher family's tragic experience is another example of the bureaucratic nightmare the Liberals have created to stop people accessing the NDIS."

Officials were also asked about the statement the National Disability Insurance Agency published after two 25-year-old men died in 2014 after a storm cut power and the ventilators they relied on to breathe stopped working.

Greens senator Jordon Steele-John said the agency's statement after their deaths was devoid of humanity.

NDIA boss Martin Hoffman said the deaths were tragic.

"Any death of children is tragic and is about humanity and a person, and I certainly acknowledge that," he said.

Senator Reynolds began her evidence by providing a long statement about the current situation of the NDIS, which she said needed a sustainable solution to its exponential growth.

Over the past three years support packages had increased by 12.5 per cent each year, she said.

"And that is unsustainable over the longer term, which is what we collectively have to work on," Senator Reynolds said.

In 2019, the Morrison government boasted about a $4.2 billion underspend in the scheme helping them put the balance back in balance, which ultimately did not occur because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But since then, Senator Reynolds said, more people had joined the scheme and were getting more financial support than before.

A fair and consistent solution was needed, she said.

Senator Reynolds has paused a rollout of mandatory independent assessments to both access the NDIS and for people already on plans.

But they would continue in "some form", the minister said.