NDIS on agenda at disability inquiry

Max Koslowski

The National Disability Insurance Scheme is likely to be scrutinised by a sweeping royal commission into the abuse of people with disabilities, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison hinting the probe could be as big as the landmark $373 million inquiry into child sex abuse.

The Age revealed yesterday that Mr Morrison had written to state and territory leaders calling for a joint royal commission in what will be the sixth judicial probe in Australia in as many years.

Disability advocates want the inquiry to look into violence, abuse and neglect of people with a disability but have also urged the Prime Minister to make sure the NDIS is examined.

"There will be issues that come to light," Women With Disabilities Australia executive director Carolyn Frohmader said of the NDIS. "There may be areas where it can be improved or reformed."

The NDIS - which is expected to soon cost $22 billion a year - has endured a string of controversies since its creation in 2013.

In the three months to last September, the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission fielded 184 reports of abuse or neglect, including 29 allegations of sexual assault against recipients.

A report by National Disability Services has also suggested almost three-quarters of providers believed NDIS systems and processes were not working well.

But Ms Frohmader said the disability sector's concerns were not limited to the NDIS, noting only 10 per cent of people with disabilities engaged with the program.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," she said of the royal commission. "It needs to cover all forms of violence, abuse and neglect, and that includes things like financial abuse, domestic, family and interpersonal violence, and forced sterilisation."

Greens disability spokesman Jordon Steele-John backed those pleas.

"We need a royal commission that is able to investigate the violent abuse and neglect we experience in all of the spaces where we live - the workforce, the educational spaces, the services and support and everywhere in between," he said.

from The Age, 28/2/2019, page 15