COVID-19 report shows urgent review needed into NDIS watchdog practices

1 Dec 2020

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie has welcomed the findings of the Disability Royal Commission report into the government response to people with disability during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In particular, the Centre Alliance Spokesperson for Social Services calls on the Government to make sure the NDIS Safety and Quality Safeguards Commission takes a more active role in protecting the health and safety of people on the NDIS.

“I have been critical in the past of the Commission’s passive approach to its watchdog role and I endorse the recommendations in the COVID-19 report that says NDIS Safety and Quality Safeguards Commission should use its authority during an emergency to take more active steps to protect those for whom they are responsible,” Rebekha said.

“I cannot think of a more critical emergency than a global pandemic and yet the report found that the Commission ‘adhered to its policy of placing responsibility on registered service providers’ to manage risk, despite the obvious threat; and it failed to take steps to ‘intensify active oversight’.

“The report also said that the Commission believed that it didn’t have the statutory authority to take more active role but that was based on an ‘unduly narrow interpretation of the legislation’.

“I hope COVID-19 is a wake-up call to the Government to ensure the NDIS Safety and Quality Safeguards Commission actually does its job because I don’t believe this watchdog realises it has teeth.”

Back in June Rebekha called for an urgent review into what she described as a 'hear no evil, see no evil' culture within the Commission in South Australia.

The call came after Rebekha raised allegations in Federal Parliament about serious systemic failings within the Commission raised by former employee whistleblowers.

These failings alleged a culture of discouraging active investigations into reportable incidents; long delays in triaging a huge caseload of incidents; no assistance to improve compliance through education; insufficient training for frontline staff; limited information sharing with state agencies and between teams within the Commission; and a directive not to make unannounced visits to care providers.

“The allegations shared with me suggested there is no appetite for proactive compliance and the Commission appeared to take a ‘hear no evil, see no evil’ approach to regulation.

“The regulatory framework exists for the Commission to do its job.

“I called for an urgent review into why the Commission was not using its statutory authority to take a more active role and, despite Federal and State investigations, I have seen no evidence things have changed.

“The COVID-19 report is clear that the Commission’s decision to maintain its existing practices represented a lost opportunity to protect NDIS participants.”

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