Report points to flaws in disability care

Tim Dornin
The SA Law Society wants a visitor scheme set up after Ann Marie Smith died while in full-time care

Gaps exist in the system to protect disabled people under government care, with a dozen issues identified by a South Australian task force examining the case of an Adelaide woman who died in appalling conditions.

The group's interim report was released on Tuesday and found 12 areas that required attention, with most within the Commonwealth's jurisdiction.

It found there was no requirement for care providers to allocate at least two workers to cater for each client and no requirement for carers to have regular supervision.

It also found there was a lack of clarity in how the National Disability Insurance Scheme handled reports of matters of concern and its clients were not being helped to participate in community activities.

Task force co-chair Kelly Vincent said the report spoke to everyday things needed to make disabled people feel "more safe, more protected and, most importantly, more able to assert our own rights".

"One of the major things we found in the case of Ann Marie Smith is how is a person like this, who communicates in ways other than speaking, was apparently left without assistive technology that might have allowed her to communicate her needs," Ms Vincent said.

"It's 2020, that technology exists and needs to be made available."

Ms Smith, who suffered from cerebral palsy, died in hospital in April from septic shock, multiple organ failure, severe pressure sores and malnourishment while under the care of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Police have launched a manslaughter inquiry into her treatment and the NDIS commissioner has appointed former Federal Court Judge Alan Robertson to lead an independent inquiry.

Police said the 54-year-old had been spending her days and sleeping at night in the same woven cane chair with extremely poor personal hygiene and no nutritional food.

SA Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink said she had already contacted the federal government to seek urgent action on the task force findings.

"Given the majority of gaps fall within the Commonwealth's responsibility, I've spoken and written to NDIS Minister Stuart Robert pushing for urgent changes to be actioned immediately," she said.

Ms Lensink said the final report from the task force, due in July, would look specifically at how to improve safeguards and oversight for people living with a disability.

She said it would consult more widely with the disability sector and key stakeholders to finalise its recommendations.

"Ann Marie Smith was let down over a number of years by a series of system failures and we are determined to correct them," the minister said.