Extra disability help fast-tracked in SA

Ann Marie Smith died while under the care of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Ann Marie Smith died while under the care of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Extra resources to safeguard disabled people considered particularly vulnerable will be fast-tracked in South Australia following the death of a woman in appalling circumstances.

Ann Marie Smith, who suffered from cerebral palsy, died in hospital in April from septic shock, multiple organ failure, severe pressure sores and malnourishment while under the care of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Police have launched a manslaughter inquiry into her treatment and the NDIS commissioner has appointed former Federal Court judge Alan Robertson to lead an independent inquiry.

The state government also established a task force to examine gaps between the state and federal systems that may put people like Ms Smith at risk.

Its final report was released on Monday, with the government accepting a recommendation to dramatically increase resources for the adult safeguarding unit from October this year, instead of from 2022.

Disability advocate and task force member David Caudrey said the question of whether a case such as Ms Smith's could happen again was one of the "nightmares" of anyone working in the sector.

"There is always a possibility where terrible neglect is involved and people are very socially isolated ... in those circumstances bad things can happen," he said.

"All you can do is identify all the reasons why this might happen and try to do your best to close those gaps and mitigate those circumstances."

However, Mr Caudrey said he was very confident that if all the report's recommendations were implemented then what happened to Ms Smith would be "infinitely less likely" to happen again.

In other recommendations, the state government will provide extra funding for disability advocacy in SA and would work with the NDIS on the continued implementation of a community visitor scheme to ensure greater checks were conducted on the disabled.

Soon after her death, police said Ms Smith had been spending her days and sleeping at night in the same woven cane chair with extremely poor personal hygiene and no nutritional food.

Their investigations have since included the search for a large amount of missing jewellery and irregular spending from an inheritance the 54-year-old had received.

Australian Associated Press