For those vulnerable people across Australia living with disability, the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has been heralded as a much-needed security net. And for those caring for disabled individuals, the NDIS provides a framework for sustainable care arrangements.
A responsive and effective complaints system is an essential adjunct to the NDIS, which will eventually sustain some 460,000 disabled Australians under the age of 65. As at February, 61,000 Australians have been brought into the scheme.
How the NDIS complaints system operates
The NDIS complaints system is intended to help participants in the scheme provide feedback, or make complaints about their own experiences or the system in general.
What other mechanisms for complaint are available?
In NSW, if a person living with a disability in a residential facility suffers a reportable incident at the hands of a care service provider, that incident must be investigated and reported to the appropriate Ombudsman, in accordance with the Ombudsman Act 1974.
A reportable incident includes the commission of sexual offences or misconduct (including those committed in the presence of the person suffering the disability), assault, fraud or financial abuse, and ill-treatment or neglect by a carer. Unexplained injuries also fall within the same category of reportable incidents.
Effectiveness of the system still uncertain
Given the potential risks of abuse within the system of allocating a carer to a disabled Australian, it is essential that the NDIS is paired with an effective and efficient complaint and resolution scheme.
Ultimately, the current NDIS complaint service has significant room for growth before it can be considered to be effectively safeguarding the rights of disabled Australians. True improvement will play out most importantly by imposing greater penalties and consequences on carers who are found to have transgressed against their clients in any serious fashion.
As the NDIS matures as a scheme, it is to be hoped that many teething issues with the complaint management system will be ironed out naturally.
However effective investigation of incidents relating to abuse as soon as they are reported or otherwise come to light will remain the most important safeguard of the rights of disabled Australians, along with general prevention of potential abuse or misconduct by carers through a strong governance and policy regime. Contact us about our specialised Investigating Abuse in Care training courses.