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Australia Minister mum on screenings as Ann Marie Smith taskforce terms of reference revealed

10:57  03 june  2020
10:57  03 june  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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a person posing for the camera: The death of disability care recipient Ann Marie Smith is being treated by SA Police as a major crime. (Supplied: SA Police) © Provided by ABC Health The death of disability care recipient Ann Marie Smith is being treated by SA Police as a major crime. (Supplied: SA Police)

South Australia's Human Services Minister has refused to answer questions about whether other carers employed by Integrity Care SA have been required to apply for screening checks.

Ann Marie Smith, 54, had cerebral palsy and died in April after being left to sit in a cane chair 24 hours a day for what police allege could have been a year.

That is despite having access to paid National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) carer Rosa Maione who was employed by Integrity Care SA.

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A parliamentary committee last month heard Ms Maione was not screened until after her client's death.

When questioned on ABC Radio Adelaide about whether concerns had been raised about any other Integrity Care SA staff, Minister Michelle Lensink said that was something she could not comment on.

"I don't have that information, that would be potentially information that you could ask of the [NDIS] Quality and Safeguarding Commission," Ms Lensink said.

When asked if she knew how many staff Integrity Care SA had, she replied: "I think that's a rather, inappropriate question."

When pressed, the Minister admitted the State Government was responsible for screening disability care workers, but would not comment on the status of the screenings for staff of Integrity Care SA.

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"I'm not going to talk about screening in relation to this company," she said.

"I'm not going to respond to this line of questioning because it may prejudice some of the formal inquiries."

Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas said that was an unacceptable response.

"I can't believe that the Minister who is responsible for these clearances hasn't established whether or not there are other Integrity Care employees who don't yet have the appropriate checks," he said.

Cards and flowers left at Ann Marie Smith's house in Kensington Park © ABC Cards and flowers left at Ann Marie Smith's house in Kensington Park

It has previously been revealed Integrity Care SA only applied to the Department of Human Services for a screening check on Rosa Maione for the first time on April 15, more than a week after Ms Smith died.

The screening was then approved by the department on April 24.

"This is the Minister that is responsible for these safety clearances in South Australia, and she hasn't even taken the time, apparently, to investigate whether or not everyone that is working at Integrity Care meets those appropriate standards," Mr Malinauskas said.

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Integrity Care SA has been contacted for comment.

A Department of Human Services spokeswoman said registered providers such as Integrity Care SA were legally required by the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission to ensure their workforce had valid screening checks in place.

"The Department of Human Services is working with the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission to ensure a thorough investigation into Integrity Care," she said.

Terms of reference revealed

The Safeguarding Task Force was set up by the South Australian Government following Ms Smith's death to examine the current gaps in oversight and safeguarding for people living with disability in the state.

The terms of reference for its investigation were released today.

They make no mention of Ms Smith.

The two-page document states the taskforce has been set up to "consider the gaps from a developmental, preventative and reactive perspective".

Mr Malinauskas said the terms of reference should have been released sooner.

"It was only under sustained questioning and media pressure did the Minister finally commit to releasing the terms of reference," he said.

"This appears as though the Minister is completely out of her depth at a time that vulnerable South Australians are depending on the work that she undertakes."

The 12-member taskforce had its first meeting last week, with one more meeting scheduled June 10 before it is required to hand down a preliminary report and urgent recommendations by June 15.

It is then required to submit a final report, with full recommendations, by July 31.

The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission has appointed former judge Alan Robertson to lead a separate independent inquiry into the case.

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