SafeWork SA says it is investigating Ann Marie Smith’s care provider, following reports that the organisation applied for more than 30 workers’ accreditations in the days after Ms Smith’s death.
- SA Police is conducting a manslaughter investigation into the death of Ann Marie Smith
- SafeWork SA today said it is “making enquiries with Integrity Care” in relation to Ms Smith’s death
- Disability advocate Kelly Vincent says the organisation must be shut down immediately
SafeWork SA today confirmed its investigation into Integrity Care SA, and that it is “closely liaising with other stakeholders in relation to the investigation of the death of Ann Marie Smith, including South Australia Police”.
“We are making enquiries with Integrity Care in relation to this matter,” the statement read.
“We are unable to provide any further information at this time.”
Ms Smith, 54, died on April 6 from severe septic shock, multi-organ failure, severe pressure sores, malnutrition and issues connected with her cerebral palsy, after being stuck in a cane chair for 24 hours a day for more than a year.
She lived alone at her Kensington Park home in Adelaide’s eastern suburbs and relied on a carer for all of her needs.
Her carer has since been sacked by Integrity Care SA, and police have launched a criminal investigation into the circumstances of her death, which have caused widespread public shock and anger.
In May, South Australian Premier Steven Marshall also announced a task force, chaired by disability advocate David Caudrey, to investigate gaps in the disability care system.
A Federal Government inquiry is also being conducted.
State Government ‘must step in’
Opposition spokeswoman for human services Nat Cook has called on the State Government to “take any steps necessary to ensure Integrity Care is shut down immediately”.
“What we’re seeing now is that SafeWork SA is investigating the fact that 33 workers have had clearances submitted, since the death of Annie Smith, by Integrity Care,” she said.
Ms Cook said the State Government “must step in” and close Integrity Care down.(ABC News: Nick Harmsen)
“So this is one agency 33 clearances for workers to care for vulnerable South Australians en masse being submitted.
“There is something definitely not right here.”
Ms Cook questioned whether waiting for the outcomes of inquiries into Ms Smith’s death before taking action could lead to more cases of neglect and abuse.
“Annie would experience the most awful neglect and abuse at the hands of people who didn’t care enough to ensure that she was safe, didn’t care enough to ensure that she had the adequate dignity provided to her to live a life that she wanted here in South Australia,” she said.
“This organisation has not got the adequate governance frameworks in place to ensure that their workers have the requisite clearances and training to undertake the work that they are doing.
“The State Government must step in and close the organisation down.”
Disability advocate Kelly Vincent said the State Government has a “moral obligation” to close Integrity Care.(ABC News: Lauren Waldhuter)
State taskforce member and former Dignity Party MLC Kelly Vincent said the accreditations were “not a magic bullet, but they are a legal requirement”.
“To have so many staff operating without clearances shows disregard, not only for the law, but the lives and the quality of life of people that you are supposed to be working for,” Ms Vincent said.
“It shows an absolute disregard for the quality of service that people are providing.
“It shows that you don’t care what kind of dangerous background people might have, when they are working with potentially very vulnerable people.”
She called on the State and Federal Government to work together and shut down Integrity Care “immediately and permanently”.
“We need the State Government to stop pretending that everything to do with the human rights and lives of disabled people is a Federal responsibility just because of the NDIS.
“We have a company operating here illegally, immorally, putting people’s lives at risk right here in South Australia.
“The State Government has the power and the moral obligation to step in and stop this right now. Lives literally depend on it.”
State Government supports ‘decisive action’
Minister for Human Services Michelle Lensink would today neither confirm nor deny reports of Integrity Care’s belated screening check applications.
“The State Government’s Screening Unit takes immediate action to revoke any screening when it has serious concerns about a notification from agencies including the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, or SAPOL,” she said.
“The State Government absolutely supports decisive action and de-registration of any organisation found to be in serious breach of the laws and regulations that protect people with disability from abuse and neglect.
“We are cooperating with the Federal Government and the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission’s independent review into circumstances relating to the death of Ann Marie Smith and pushing for urgent safeguarding gaps to be actioned immediately to prevent such a tragic event happening again.
Ms Lensink said the State Government supports de-registering organisations found to be in breach of the law.(ABC: Angus Llewellyn)
“Given Integrity Care is subject to an active investigation by South Australia Police and the NDIS Commission, we cannot comment further.”
An NDIS Commission spokesperson said it “has an active investigation underway into Integrity Care, including how it has met its obligations under the NDIS Code of Conduct, and its conditions of registration”.
“We cannot comment further on the particulars in this case,” the spokesperson said.
“It is important that our investigations are able to be undertaken appropriately and are not compromised by any premature commentary.
“As more information becomes available, the NDIS Commission will take decisions about any further regulatory actions.”
Integrity Care SA would not respond to requests for comment.