Care firm in rush for clearances after Annie Smith’s death
SafeWork SA has launched an investigation into the death of Annie Smith. It comes as it is revealed Ms Smith's care provider - Integrity Care SA - submitted Working with Vulnerable People applications for 33 of its workers 10 days after her death.
The inquiry into the directors of Integrity Care (SA) Ltd will focus on compliance with regulations and legal requirements relating to its employees.
The Working with Vulnerable People clearances, which were submitted to the Department for Human Services, are a legal requirement for the provider to claim funds from the National Disability Insurance Scheme for services provided to clients.
Ms Smith, 54, died in Royal Adelaide Hospital on April 6, the day after her carer Rosemary Maione, 68, called an ambulance to her Kensington Park home.
Evidence indicates Ms Smith, who died of malnutrition and multiple organ failure caused by blood poisoning from untreated pressure sores, had spent most of the year leading up to her death in an almost sedentary state. She was living in putrid conditions in a woven cane chair in the lounge room of her home that was soaked in urine and faeces.
Investigations by The Advertiser can also reveal Ms Maione's son Vincenzo and his partner may also have been caring for Ms Smith at times - despite the fact both were not accredited carers.
On May 15 SA police revealed a manslaughter investigation had been launched, focusing on the criminal liability of those who had a responsibility to deliver appropriate care to Ms Smith.
The tragedy is also being investigated by retired Federal Court Judge Alan Robertson QC at the request of the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission. The State Government has established a 12-member task force to examine gaps in the system safeguarding those living with disability.
In May it was revealed that Ms Maione's application - one of the 33 submitted by Integrity Care - was approved by the DHS screening unit on April 24, but it was revoked on May 18. Despite being Ms Smith's carer since 2013, she did not have the necessary clearance.
Government sources said her application was completed by her on April 14 and submitted by Integrity Care on April 15 - despite the fact it was first initiated by the company on August 6 2019.
While Ms Maione's clearance has been revoked, the status of the other 32 applications submitted by Integrity Care is unknown. The DHS screening unit has launched an investigation into each of the Integrity Care workers who have applied for the clearances.
Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink I has declined to reveal if any of the 32 applications that were being investigated have been revoked.
"The State Government's Screening Unit takes immediate action to revoke any screening when it has serious concerns about a notification from agencies including the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, or SAPOL,'' she said.
"Given Integrity Care is subject to an active investigation by South Australia Police and the NDIS Commission, we cannot comment further.''
However, Ms Lensink said the government "absolutely supports decisive action and deregistration of any organisation found to be in serious breach of the laws and regulations that protect people with disability from abuse and neglect.''
"The State Government is co-operating with the Federal Government and the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission's independent review into circumstances relating to the death of Ann Marie Smith - and we are pushing for urgent safeguarding gaps to be actioned immediately to prevent such a tragic event happening again,'' she said.
Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas today said "it is inconceivable that State Government hasn't taken any action to shut down Integrity Care.''
"Reports that 33 employees responsible for taking care of some of our most vulnerable South Australians did not have the required working with vulnerable people checks is an appalling failure of governance by the State Government,'' he said.
"Providing these checks is entirely the responsibility of the State Government through the DHS Screening Unit, which means Minister Michelle Lensink cannot choose to look the other way.
"The Premier and Minister Lensink must now take urgent action and immediately shut them down.''
SafeWork SA executive director Martyn Campbell today confirmed his inquiry, but declined to comment on its focus.
"SafeWork SA is closely liaising with other stakeholders in relation to the investigation of the death of Ann Marie Smith, including South Australia Police,'' he said.
"We are making inquiries with Integrity Care in relation to this matter. We are unable to provide any further information at this time.''
ASIC records show Integrity Care (SA) is operated as an unlisted non-profit company. Its three directors are listed as Amy-June Collins, Philip John Greenland and Alison Maree Virgo. Collins, who is also company secretary, and Greenland share a house at Huntfield Heights while Virgo resides nearby in the same suburb.
It is understood Collins' mother Kerrie Wade was formerly involved in the business in another entity, prior to the current structure being registered in May 2017. She now provides training services in aged and disability care to the current entity through a company called Wade Vocational Services. Integrity Care formerly operated from the same premises as Wade Vocational Services at Melrose Park.
The NDIS Quality and Assurance Commission has already taken action against Integrity Care over Ms Smith's death, fining the company $12,600 for failing to report it within 24 hours as required.
Government sources said in October 2017, the company was subject to a performance review by the Department for Human Services that resulted in four "issues of deficit'' in its performance requirements.
A major issue concerned inadequacies in its policies outlining action to be taken regarding critical client incidents - including requirements to notify SAPOL and the department. The company took action to address the four issues in February 2018.
In 2013 Integrity Care was also advised that allegations of theft had been levelled at Ms Maione by the families of several individuals she was providing care services to. As a result of those allegations she was banned from working for Domiciliary Care clients - but she was still allowed to care for other clients. Police were not advised of the theft allegations.
The directors of Integrity Care, though their lawyers Iles Selley, yesterday declined to respond to questions from The Advertiser relating to their practices and procedures.
Prior to coming under the jurisdiction of the NDIS, Ms Smith's welfare came under the jurisdiction of Disability SA.
Up until her move to the NDIS, besides providing her support co-ordination Disability SA would contact Ms Smith directly annually to review her needs. It is understood Ms Smith's last contact with NDIS concerning her care was in November 2018.
In the 2018/19 financial year Disability SA provided funding for her personal care and in home support services of just over $140,000. Since her transition this funding has been met under the NDIS. Under her plan Ms Smith receives funding for around 40 hours a week of support services, which is paid to Integrity Care.
The police and NDIS investigations are also examining who cared for Ms Smith over an extended period between September and October 2018 when Ms Maione was unable to.
The Advertiser understands Ms Maione's son Vincenzo and his wife Rizza visited Ms Smith's Kensington Park house regularly during that time period. It is understood neither were employed by Integrity Care or had the required clearance to work with vulnerable people.
The future operations of Integrity Care rest with the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, which is conducting an audit into the company's practices. That audit will determine if its registration is renewed.
"We are undertaking our own investigation into the circumstances of Ms Smith's death and working alongside South Australian Police," NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commissioner Graeme Head said.
"The NDIS Commission has already issued a compliance notice to Integrity Care requiring them to do a range of things to protect the safety of other people with disability that they support. We have also required their full co-operation with an audit against the NDIS Practice Standards.
"This audit is required as part of the Commission's consideration of Integrity Care's application for renewal of their registration as an NDIS provider. I am required to consider that application in full when the audit is complete."
The Major Crime manslaughter investigation is continuing, with detectives examining company records seized when search warrants were executed on its premises. Other records are also being obtained under warrant from interstate servers and stored in the Cloud.
Last month it was revealed detectives had discovered a significant amount of Ms Smith's cash inheritance and $70,000 she had borrowed had been removed from her bank account and that much of her distinctive sold gold jewellery, including hairclips and bangles, were also missing.
Detectives also revealed an unknown person had been driving Ms Smith's silver Honda Accord for more than four years and incurred traffic fines that had been paid using Ms Smith's money.
Police appeals for information in the case have resulted in 72 people contacting Crimestoppers - 28 in May, 41 in June and three so far this month.
Major Crime officer-in-charge Detective Superintendent Des Bray said the calls received from the public had advanced the inquiry.
"The investigation is progressing very well, and we are grateful to people who have contacted Crime Stoppers as this has generated positive lines of inquiry that has advanced the investigation," he said.
Det. Supt. Bray declined to reveal if investigators had interviewed any of the 33 care workers who applied to the DHS screening unit for clearances on April 15.
Anyone who can assist the investigation is urged to call Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000.
Originally published as Care firm in rush for clearances after Annie Smith's death