Olivia lives with the rare Kleefstra Syndrome.

Ending abuse and neglect for people with disability Analysis

Ending abuse and neglect for people with disability

The NDIS Safeguarding and Quality Framework and the recent Federal Budget contain positive measures for protecting the rights of people with disability and empowering them to take control of their lives. However some gaps remain.


Across Australia, we continue to hear appalling cases of people with disability experiencing abuse and neglect, as recently highlighted by a Four Corners Report.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will help address some of the systemic issues that have contributed to abuse and neglect, by giving people with disability greater choice and control over their services. However, this  also raises new risks around the quality and safety of services for people with disability.

People with disability share the same rights as everyone else, including the right to be free from all forms of violence, abuse and neglect.

People with disability need to be empowered through the provision of a system with effective protections, designed to prevent harm and deliver high quality services and supports.

People with disability share the same rights as everyone else, including the right to be free from all forms of violence, abuse and neglect.


Earlier this year the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Framework (Framework) was released. This will provide a national system of protections and introduce quality standards for NDIS services.

This year’s federal budget announced $209 million over four years from 2017-18 to establish and operate a new independent statutory body – the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission (Commission), to implement the Framework. The Commission will be responsible for registration and oversight of NDIS providers, responding to complaints and reportable incidents, and helping to reduce and eliminate restrictive practices.  A National Code of Conduct will also be developed (currently open for consultation), along with a national worker screening system.

While many of the elements in the Framework, and the role of the Commission itself appear sound, how these will operate in practice remain unseen.

Some positives in the Framework include:

  • anyone being able to make a complaint to the NDIS Commissioner, and be protected under whistle-blower legislation.
  • the Commission being able to initiate investigations, analyse systemic issues and report publicly on complaints and incident reports.
  • the Commissioner having the power to enforce actions where providers or workers have engaged in unacceptable behaviour.
  • support to be provided to promote positive behaviour support and eliminate restrictive practices.

However, several aspects still remain unclear or unaddressed:

  • the Framework recognises the role of independent advocacy in promoting and protecting rights for people with disability, but there is no increase in funding to do this.
  • funding levels for the National Disability Advocacy Program are woefully inadequate.
  • it is unclear whether adequate protections and sanctions will be in place around unregistered NDIS service providers, which potentially exposes clients to greater risks of harm and poor practices.
  • the worker screening tool doesn‘t appear to cover managers and people in positions of power.
  • it is unclear how the worker screening tool will apply to unregistered providers or sole traders.
  • there is no clear process outlined in the Framework about how abuse and poor practices outside the NDIS will be managed.
  • there needs to be recognition in the Framework that many people with disability will be ineligible for the NDIS, but still need support services.
  • abuse, neglect and restrictive practices also occur in other mainstream settings, such as the education system, which needs to be addressed.
  • It is unclear whether existing state mechanisms and protections will continue to apply when the NDIS is fully operational, and if so, how they will interact with the Framework.

Protections for Victorians with disability must not be watered down to achieve national consistency.

VCOSS aims to work with governments and the community sector to help resolve these issues. We need to ensure people with disability enjoy the basic human rights they have too often been denied. That is – to be free from all forms of violence, abuse and neglect, and be empowered to live their lives to the full.