Disability watchdog fields 1,500 serious incident reports against NDIS participants in six months – ABC News
By political reporter Stephanie Dalzell
The disability watchdog received almost 1,500 reports of serious incidents like sexual assault against participants of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in just six months, figures obtained by the ABC have revealed.
- Of the 1,459 reports, almost 500 were related to the abuse and neglect of NDIS participants
- There were also 250 allegations of serious injury over the six-month period
- Greens Senator Jordan Steele-John said the figures were “outrageous”
More than 60 of those were sexual abuse allegations, and there were 227 allegations of unlawful physical or sexual contact.
The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, which at this stage only oversees New South Wales and South Australia, received the allegations between July and December last year.
Matthew Bowden, the co-chief executive of People with Disabilities Australia, said the figures were just a glimpse into the level of abuse within the disability sector, which has prompted Prime Minister Scott Morrison to announce a $527 million disability royal commission.
“The figures are shocking, but also not a surprise,” he said.
“We know what is happening in our lives, we know what the risks and vulnerabilities are when we’re engaging with service providers.
Of the 1,459 reports, almost 500 were related to the abuse and neglect of NDIS participants.
There were also 250 allegations of serious injury.
Greens senator Jordon Steele-John described the figures as “outrageous”.
“As a disabled person, as a disability advocate, it speaks to the systemic and endemic nature of the violence and abuse we have been screaming about for decades.”
The actual number of abused people with disabilities would ‘shock the nation’: Senator
Senator Steele-John said the actual number of people with disabilities who were abused or neglected was much higher than the number of reports.
“There are many people who, because of their disability or circumstances, physically cannot use the safeguard system to report.
“You’ve got to be able to pick up the phone, do it in a safe way, and if you’re hearing impaired, visually impaired or have a physical mobility issue that’s not an option to you.
“So, if we look at these figures, what we actually see is 1,500 in the relatively rare circumstances that enable you to report, reporting.
“I would not like to even think about the figure in actuality — it would shock the nation.”
Government takes reports ‘extremely seriously’
A spokeswoman for the Department of Social Services said the Government took the abuse and neglect of people with disabilities very seriously.
“The Government announced the establishment of a Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability — backed by a $527.9 million commitment.
“In the meantime, the Government is engaging in real, immediate and substantial reform to improve the treatment of people with disability and uphold their right to be free from harm.”
But Labor’s spokeswoman for social services, Linda Burney, said the Government had not put enough protections in place for people with disabilities.
“These figures are very concerning and I’m afraid they’re probably the tip of the iceberg.
“It would be a massive mistake to wait for the three years the Royal Commission is going to run, and then act,” she said.
More than 300 providers had registration revoked: Report
Last week, the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on the NDIS tabled a progress report that revealed the disability watchdog revoked the registration of 316 NDIS providers last year.
The agency responsible for the NDIS, the National Disability Insurance Agency, said 39 of those were the result of providers failing to comply with the NDIS code of conduct, or its practice standards.
Senator Steele-John said the numbers were indicative of a “large-scale cultural problem”.
“It says a lot of people, when subjected to the light of day, actually don’t match up to the expectation of either legal or community standard, and it says we urgently need to change the way we do disability services in Australia so they’re not hotbeds of abuse.”
People committing heinous crimes not being brought to justice: Advocates
When NDIS providers report criminal matters like sexual assaults to the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, they are also obligated to report the matters to police.
However, Matthew Bowden said of the reports that were made, very few ended up in court.
“There’s an extremely low rate of prosecution, there are very few charges that are laid, and those that actually do get laid and make it through to court and lead to prosecution or conviction are extremely low.
“This is another area that needs to be looked at in the royal commission — why is it that our justice systems are failing people with disability? Why is it that people who commit heinous crimes against people with disabilities are not being brought to justice?”
The acting CEO of National Disability Services, David Moody, said it was particularly difficult for some people with disabilities to be heard in court.
“For a range of reasons [police are] indicating they can’t bring a prosecution with a person who has a cognitive or intellectual disability.
“They’re not being appropriately supported to bring forward a charge.”
He said the government and community needed to better support people with disabilities.
“It starts with empowering people with disabilities and their support networks to understand their right to complain, their right to report incidents, and their right to expect justice in circumstances where they might have been the victim of a criminal offence.”