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Participant safety

All participants have a right to be safe when they use NDIS supports and services. Safety generally means being free from injury or danger.[2]

Injury or danger could be:

  • physical (for example, injury or danger to a person’s body, health and wellbeing)
  • psychological (for example, injury or danger to the health and wellbeing of a person’s thoughts, feelings and mind)
  • social (for example, injury or danger to a person’s connections to their friends, families, partners, and communities)
  • economic (for example, loss of finances due to exploitation or fraud)
  • cultural or spiritual.[3]

Injury or danger could be caused by:

  • Abuse includes any behaviour that involves the ill-treatment of a person.[4] Abuse overlaps with violence, exploitation and neglect. For example, verbal abuse may also be considered a form of violence, and financial abuse may be a form of exploitation.
  • Violence includes any behaviour by a person that coerces or controls another person, or causes the other person to be fearful.[5] Examples of violence a participant could experience in the NDIS include physical or sexual assault, use of restrictive practices, verbal abuse, humiliation and harassment, financial abuse, and significant violations of their privacy and dignity.
  • Exploitation is when a person takes advantage of someone else. An example of exploitation a participant could experience in the NDIS could be a person taking advantage of them financially and fraudulently claiming funding in their plan.
  • Neglect includes acts by another person that are intentional (on purpose) and unintentional (by accident). Examples of neglect a participant could experience in the NDIS include being deprived of reasonable and necessary supports and services, as outlined in their plan, or not having supports and services delivered in the manner needed to keep them well.

Acts causing injury or danger exist on a continuum from minor transgressions causing disquiet or discomfort to significant violations of rights, and can be cumulative in their effect (for example, significant harm arising from repeated minor transgressions).

Participants have a right to be safe. It does not matter if the injury or danger is intentional (on purpose) or unintentional (by accident). Participants have a right to be safe from intentional and unintentional injury or danger.

The rights of people with disability are reinforced by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD). It says that people with disability have the right to be safe from violence and abuse. It also says that people with disability have the right to the same quality of life as other people in the community.[6]

The National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 (NDIS Act 2013) also sets out key objectives and principles in relation to the safety and rights of participants. For example, the NDIS Act 2013 says that the NDIS should:

  • Protect and prevent people with disability from experiencing harm arising from poor quality or unsafe supports or services provided under the NDIS.
  • Ensure that people with disability have the same right as other members of Australian society to respect for their worth and dignity and to live free from abuse, neglect and exploitation.
  • Support people with disability to exercise choice, including in relation to taking reasonable risks, in the pursuit of goals and the planning and delivery of supports.

Participant rights are not always respected, and participants are not always safe. Research shows that people with disability are more likely than people without disability to experience all types of violence. 47% of people with disability aged 18 and over report experiencing violence since the age of 15, around 11% more than adults without disability.[7] Women, children, and First Nations people with disability in particular are at further heightened risk of experiencing all types of violence.[8]

People think about and experience safety in different ways, influenced by factors such as:

  • disability
  • age
  • sex, gender identity, sexual orientation and intersex status
  • cultural and linguistic circumstances
  • location
  • experiences
  • risk appetite.

These factors form a unique set of circumstances for each individual. The overlaps and intersections between these circumstances shape each person’s experience of safety.

The broader physical and social environment around a person will also influence how they think about and experience safety. There are many different situations in the NDIS where people may think about or experience safety differently, including when they:

  • are in the community or a public place
  • are in their home
  • are at work or educational settings
  • need to make decisions
  • need support
  • need to communicate with other people
  • need to find information
  • are in crisis situations.

Regardless of their individual situation, participants may feel more or less safe depending on where they are, what they are doing and who they are around.

Access to family, friends, community and cultural networks – as well as the capacity of these supporters – may also impact how a participant feels about safety. For example, a participant may feel safer when they are with trusted people who will support them to identify risks in their environment, and to speak up if something happens. They may feel unsafe if they are in an unfamiliar environment with people they do not know well.

Questions for consultation

  1. What does safety and safeguarding mean to participants?
    1. When do participants feel safe and unsafe? What helps participants to feel safe?

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To have your say in the NDIS Review visit our consultation page.