The NDIS' safety watchdog is struggling to address a huge backlog of alleged cases of abuse and neglect of participants due to understaffing, the main public sector union has claimed.
The Community and Public Sector Union said staff at the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission felt as though they were letting participants down as they struggled to investigate serious incidents.
The union's representatives made the claims as the parliamentary inquiry examining the capability of the Australian Public Service on Tuesday turned its attention to the commission and the National Disability Insurance Agency.
CPSU organiser David Villegas pointed to the recent APS survey - which ranked the quality and safeguards commission near last for staff wellbeing - as evidence of the problems inside the workplace.
Mr Villegas said what the damning survey results didn't capture was the "strong sense of guilt" that staff felt at not being able to "do justice" by participants because of resourcing constraints.
He said the team investigating reportable incidents, which could include death, abuse or neglect of participants, could at one point be dealing with more than 100 cases.
The investigations team, which Mr Villegas said dealt with the most serious reportable incidents, had a backlog of more than 400 cases.
"The commission's response to all of this, time and again, is to hire labor hire stuff to perform surge capacity work," he said.
"But the problem with this from our members' perspective is that the commission is always at surge capacity, it has always had a significant amount of work to do.
"The members feel that unless under-resourcing is dealt with then they are always going to struggle with meeting the objectives of why the commission was established in the first place - which was to provide safeguards for participants in the community.
The commission's acting boss, Samantha Taylor, was not asked directly about Mr Villegas' claims when she appeared before the inquiry.
But Ms Taylor noted that last year's federal budget had allocated the commission an extra $90 million across the forward estimates to help boost staff numbers in response to a "significant volume" of complaints.
She acknowledged the commission had used labor hire firms as part of a "surge workforce", but said significant work had been done in recent months to recruit permanent staff.
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