There are calls for the latest investigation into the death of NDIS participant Anne Marie Smith to look at whether the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission is a “toothless tiger”.

Anne Marie Smith

A former federal court judge will head an inquiry into Ms Smith’s May 6 death.

As reported by Community Care Review, the 54-year-old’s death is already the subject of a number of inquiries including an investigation headed by a South Australian state taskforce.

On Tuesday, NDIS Commissioner Graeme Head announced that Alan Robertson SC would lead an independent inquiry into the supports and services provided to Ms Smith, including the regulatory role of the NDIS Commission.

The federal opposition said the inquiry must consider whether “the $30 million-a-year Commission has been a toothless watchdog across multiple cases”.

These included Sydney man David Harris, whose body was discovered in his unit two months after he died.

Mr Harris’ NDIS funding was reportedly cut off because he missed a review meeting, and opposition NDIS spokesman Bill Shorten said the incident showed the insurance scheme had been slashed and mismanaged to the extent that people were dying in their homes.

South Australian police on May 15 announced a major crime investigation following Ms Smith’s death in “disgusting and degrading conditions”.

Ms Smith had cerebral palsy and lived on her own with a full time carer provided by Integrity Care SA.

Restrictive practices


Meanwhile, the Disability Royal Commission is seeking information on the use of restrictive practices on people with disability.

‘We are asking for information about when, where, how and why restrictive practices are used on people with disability.

‘We want to hear about the effects of restrictive practices, which we know, can cause physical injury, psychological harm and may even cause death,” said Chair Ronald Sackville.

‘We want to hear about how the use of restrictive practices can be avoided, and hear about alternative measures and strategies.

‘We are also interested in understanding how laws and policies around restrictive practices can be improved.

An issues paper released by the commission this week says restrictive practices can cause serious physical injury, psychological harm and may cause death.

They can also damage relationships and trust, increase power imbalances and lead to a loss of independence.

Restrictive practices can include seclusion and use of restraints including drugs, tying a person to a chair or telling a person something is too dangerous to engage in without reasonable justification.

The issues paper says there is currently no comprehensive or uniform legal framework for the regulation of restrictive practices in Australia.

However research has shown better community support, person centred planning, environmental modification  better training and advance care directives can all play a role in reducing restrictive practices.

Responses can be made until August 28.

The latest figures from the AIHW show that about 230,000 people used disability support services in 2018-19.

Around one-third of these people used NDA disability support services that are expected to move to the NDIS.

The AIHW said informal carers continue to play an important role in the lives of people with disability, with about two-thirds of service users having an informal carer, most often their mother.

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