All charges dropped against our NDIS client Francis

All charges dropped against our NDIS client Francis

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Francis NDIS case

We are heartened that all charges have been withdrawn against our young client Francis.

‘This is a sensible outcome after a long and troubling pathway into the criminal justice system’ said Rowan McRae, Executive Director of Civil Justice Access and Equity.

'Francis’ example shows how fragile access to supports under the National Disability Insurance Scheme is for people living with complex disabilities, and how easy it is to wind up in prison when disability supports are not available’, said Ms McRae.

NDIS-funded disability service providers withdrew services from Francis, who has an intellectual disability and autism. He ended up spending a total of 180 days in custody because there was nowhere suitable for him to go on release. He was isolated from other prisoners, spending any time outside his cell in handcuffs.

‘For someone as young and vulnerable as Francis, who had never been to prison before, it was clearly the wrong place for him to be and a lack of support services kept him there for far too long’, said Lucy Geddes, Francis’ lawyer.

Experts predicted market failure under the NDIS from its early days, with agreement that once the NDIS was ‘up and running’, a framework to intervene when the market failed would be set up. This framework has not been set up. It was only through extraordinary efforts and advocacy from VLA and other important advocates that the Victorian Government intervened, leading to the delivery of a tailored support plan for Francis.

‘Due to the publicity about Francis, we have heard about dozens of similar cases around the country, where gaps in the NDIS are leading to very vulnerable people becoming homeless or spiralling into the criminal justice system,’ said Ms McRae.

Francis’ case shows clearly that a ‘provider of last resort’ framework needs to be set up to prevent these situations from occurring in the future.

The Victorian government took the initiative and found solutions for Francis, but we know that for many people with complex needs or in regional areas, when the NDIS market fails, no one is required to take responsibility.

Victoria Legal Aid is continuing its call for governments to work together and establish a clear and reliable framework which will ensure that NDIS participants have access to their funded disability supports when the market fails.

‘What happened to Francis is happening to others and action must be taken now to make sure there is a safety net in place for people in these vulnerable situations’ said Ms McRae.

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