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Ann-Marie Smith carers didn't tell NDIS about her death

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The National Disability Insurance Scheme says it wasn’t told about Ann-Marie Smith’s “appalling” death for two weeks – and even then not by the Adelaide agency paid to ensure her welfare – despite it being required to report it within 24 hours.

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Smith died in hospital on April 6 from septic shock, multiple organ failure, severe pressure sores and malnourishment which developed at her Kensington Gardens home.

Despite being assigned a carer by NDIS-administered non-government organisation Integrity Care SA, SA police said Smith spent 24-hours a day for more than a year in a cane chair and there was little food in the house.

The 54-year-old’s death has been declared a major crime, with police launching a manslaughter investigation.

In a statement, NDIS said Smith had “died last month in appalling circumstances”, but it only found out two weeks later.

“The NDIS Commission was made aware of the death of Ms Smith on 20 April 2020 by the South Australian Office of the Public Advocate and the South Australian Health and Community Service Complaints Commissioner,” it said.

“Under registered NDIS provider obligations, Integrity Care was required to have notified us of the death of Ms Smith within 24 hours of becoming aware of it.

“They failed to do this and under the infringement notice the prescribed fine for not meeting this obligation is $12,600.”

But NDIS said “by law, Integrity Care can choose to pay the infringement notice, or not”.

If it did not pay, NDIS might take court action seeking a civil penalty, with a maximum $263,000 fine for contravening the notification order.

“Reporting serious incidents to the NDIS Commission is a critical safeguarding mechanism for people with disability,” said NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commissioner Graeme Head.

“Every NDIS provider and worker is covered by the NDIS Code of Conduct, which includes the obligation to take all reasonable steps to prevent and respond to all forms of violence, exploitation, neglect and abuse of a person with disability.

“There have been clear failings in the support given to Ms Smith that warrant our thorough and careful investigation.”

NDIS had issued Integrity Care with a compliance notice “requiring them to do a range of things to protect the safety of other people with disability that they support”, Head said.

“We have also required their full co-operation with an audit against the NDIS Practice Standards. This audit is required as part of the Commission’s consideration of Integrity Care’s application for renewal of their registration as an NDIS provider.

“I am required to consider that application in full when the audit is complete.

“We cannot comment further on the particulars in this case. It is important that our investigations are able to be undertaken appropriately and are not compromised by any premature commentary.”

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