Independent Review into Circumstances relating to the Death of Ann-Marie Smith

3 August 2021

Senator GRIFF (South Australia): [by video link] My question is to the Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Senator Reynolds. Last week Rosa Maione pleaded guilty to killing Ann-Marie Smith. Ms Smith was an NDIS participant in Ms Maione's care, but suffered extreme neglect. She ultimately died in what South Australia Police described as 'disgusting and degrading circumstances'. Ms Smith's death led to an independent review, known as the Robertson review, which reported in August last year and made 10 recommendations. Minister, how many of these recommendations does the government support, and how many have been implemented to date?

Senator REYNOLDS (Western AustraliaMinister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Minister for Government Services): I thank the senator very much for his interest in this case. It is now more than a year since the absolutely tragic death of Ann-Marie Smith. No Australian should ever have to die the way this lady did. The death does continue to sadden and shock many people across Australia. As the senator said, in August 2020 the support worker alleged to have been providing support to Ms Smith was arrested and charged by the South Australia Police and has now pleaded guilty.

In May 2020, the NDIS commissioner appointed the Hon. Alan Robertson SC to conduct an independent review into the NDIS commission's regulation of Integrity Care, the provider concerned. The review was made publicly available on 4 September 2020. In August 2020 the NDIS commission revoked a registration and issued a banning order against Integrity Care, the provider of support to Ms Smith. In addition to this the commission has taken a number of other regulatory actions in relation to Integrity Care and Ms Smith's former support worker. In relation to the Robertson review itself, the government is fully supportive of the review and all its recommendations. In fact, we have a bill in this place at the moment which the community affairs committee is currently taking evidence on. So we are absolutely and resolutely committed to delivering quality and safe NDIS services to all participants to meet their needs but also to support them to live free from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Senator GRIFF : One review recommendation, Minister, was for the NDIS to establish a community visitor scheme. That would allow vulnerable participants to have face-to-face contact with an independent person who can ensure they are being cared for and their rights are respected. A similar scheme already exists for older Australians receiving home care packages. When will the government implement this recommendation? If not, why not?

Senator REYNOLDS : Thank you again, Senator, for that question. This is an issue that I'm very familiar with, and the South Australian minister has also raised this issue directly with me for obvious reasons. It is something I'm hoping the community affairs committee will also look into, and I understand that they did take evidence in relation to this issue—the balance between the right of privacy and the right of entry, and how to deal with that situation. So I very much look forward to the community affairs report on the legislation. But we clearly have to get the balance right between a person's right to privacy in their own home and how we ensure they are best protected.

Senator GRIFF : Minister, the review also recommended that each vulnerable participant have an individual within the NDIS who is responsible for their safety and wellbeing—a single point of contact, if you like, when things go wrong. I don't think we need to wait for any other inquiry or community affairs review of any type. Will the government implement this recommendation? If not, why not?

Senator REYNOLDS : I thank Senator Griff for that question. In relation to that matter, it's something I'm seeking further advice on from the NDIA and also the commission. Again, like many things with the NDIA, if you move one lever it impacts other aspects of the implementation of the scheme. Senator Griff, I'll take that aspect on notice and get back to you as soon as possible.

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