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Ann – Marie Smith’s death and attitudes towards disability

I know this story is a few weeks old now. But I still think it’s important.

Ann – Marie Smith died a degrading death in early April. Smith, 54, who had cerebral palsy, was shamefully left to die in a cane chair.

When investigated, it was found that Smith, who lived alone, had no fresh food or even a freezer in her home. 

Her ‘support worker’ has been sacked from Integrity Care SA and  Smith’s death has been ruled as manslaughter.

Integrity Care SA has also been fined A$12,600 by the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission.

 

I’ve been disappointed at the lack of commentary and public outrage about this. It is abhorrent.

Effects of ‘wasted money’ cut

Man in wheelchair washing dishes
Image: iStock

Since it’s rollout in 2016, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS),  has come under a lot of scrutiny. Accusations of fraud and funds being wasted came thick and fast. Andrew Bolt was a vocal critic, warning that the system would be abused and that the budget would ‘blow out’.

In 2017, Bolt accused groundskeeping companies of abusing the system. In the same post, Bolt claimed there was a ‘liberalisation’ of the definition of “developmental delay”.

Now, because of the scaremongering, the system has changed. And for the most part, it’s been for the worst. Last year, the Coalition government prided itself on getting rid of ‘wasted funds’. But it has left NDIS providers to  feel the need to chase money, often at expense of customer control and quality care.

 

How the hell did Smith only have ONE support worker when she needed seven – day – a – week care?

I think the “wasted” money shouldn’t have just been cut out of the NDIS. It should have been better allocated.

 

Is this a reflection of how we view people with disabilities?

Is this an indictment on how society views people with disabilities? For so long, people with disabilities have been ostracised and institutionalised. They are still overrepresented in unemployment statistics.

I truly think there is an attitude problem at play. People with a disability are too often treated as too hard. They are seen as helpless, yet they are MADE even more helpless.

 

NDIS chaos

I know from personal experience that since the Federal Government found ‘unused funds’ that they conveniently just cut out of the system it’s made the NDIS worse.

The NDIS is no longer about giving participants ‘choice’. It’s about keeping funds coming, in case the Government all – to – happily cuts “wasted money” out again. That’s often means keeping customers helpless or preventing much progress.

Support providers have become more money focussed. Was providing Smith just ONE support worker for a whole week a money – saving strategy? I don’t know for sure, but, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was. If that’s the case, then Ann – Marie Smith won’t be the only victim. There’ll be many more in the future if things don’t change now.

That starts with the Federal Government putting money back into the NDIS and service providers being responsible for the safety and well – being of their customers.

 

Attitudes need to change

Attitudes towards people with a disability need a drastic overhaul. They are not a burden. They are not parasitic. They are people, who, for reasons often beyond their control, need extra help. They shouldn’t have to beg for it or die. Their lives have to count.

This can’t happen again.

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By Sara Harnetty

I'm a student. Interested in current events, music and various issues.

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