Four Corners: News camera positioned to capture footage, representing media coverage and journalistic reporting.

Lifely denounces exploitation uncovered in Four Corners investigation

Lifely is voicing its profound concern and denunciation of the exploitation and abusive practice uncovered in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Four Corners investigation, aired on Monday, 25 September 2023.

The journalistic investigation revealed alarming manipulation, fraud and abuse, particularly within the Supported Residential Services (SRS) system.

Additionally, the investigation highlighted the use of illegal restrictive practices on people with disabilities, including children, which cause physical and psychological harm.

Lifely Chief Executive Officer Janette Martin has worked in the disability sector for more than 30 years. She has extensive experience managing disability support services, including services for people with psychosocial disabilities, intellectual disabilities and behaviours of concern.

Ms Martin stated that she and the entire Lifely team were appalled by the exploitation and harm inflicted by unscrupulous service providers featured in this week’s Four Corners program.

“The manipulation and abuse of people with disabilities and their families are utterly reprehensible and go against everything Lifely stands for,” said Ms Martin.

“That’s why we, and the many other ethical NDIS-registered providers, must come together to condemn these actions but also actively advocate for reforms to protect vulnerable Australians.”

Lifely recently submitted suggestions for practical reforms to the NDIS review, highlighting concerns about:

  • Unregistered NDIS providers
  • Inadequate support for psychosocial disabilities
  • Inadequate support for people with behaviours of concern
  • Critical need for independent advocacy funding
  • Need for national accreditation and auditing across disability, aged and veteran care
  • Better access to appropriate disability housing
  • Regional and rural access to NDIS services

Ms Martin articulated that Lifely was committed to preserving and advocating for the rights of people with disabilities.

“As a registered NDIS provider, we must adhere to stringent standards and complete regular safety and compliance audits to keep our NDIS registration. Unregistered providers do not have the same oversight, compromising the safety of NDIS participants and their workers.

“National standards, registrations, accreditation and audit processes for all care agencies, including disability, aged and veteran care, are overdue to prevent negligence, abuse and other unethical practices in the sector.

“This is especially important for people living with psychosocial disabilities and behaviours of concern, who are more likely to experience manipulation, restricted practices and abuse.

“The planning and implementation of supports for psychosocial disabilities and behaviour support under the NDIS are currently deficient, compounded by a shortage of experienced professionals and expert guidance from the agency, particularly in regional and rural communities.

“The scarcity of appropriate services, support and information means that second-rate and unethical providers can flourish, taking advantage of vulnerable people and families desperate for help.

“That’s why we’ve been lobbying the government and having productive conversations with members of parliament to take measures against unregistered and unethical providers as it reshapes the scheme following the review.”

Lifely’s commitment to upholding the human rights of people with disabilities and their families extends beyond its work supporting people with disabilities in their day-to-day lives.

Lifely also employs NDIS advocates, funded by Bendigo Health’s Carer Support Services, to assist individuals in raising concerns and filing complaints with the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Commission. Anyone can access this service, which is objective and independent of Lifely and solely acts in the individuals’ interests.

Lifely remains steadfast in its commitment to collaborate with other disability services, advocacy organisations and government at all levels to tackle these urgent issues and aid in crafting solutions that guarantee the safety, dignity, and empowerment of every individual with a disability.