Logo of two hands holding up a person with text saying Every person with a disability has a right to be safe healthy and happy

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SEPTEMBER, 2017

Would you want to live in supported accommodation?

by | Abuse, Disability, Supported Accommodation

 

When I made the gut-wrenching decision to move my son into shared supported accommodation, I knew nothing about the reality of the conditions of living there.

This page details some of what living in a group home actually means …

No say in who else lives there

It is service providers – both governmental and non-governmental – who decide who lives in the house. So, for example, a person with disabilities who is violent or abusive can be moved in – no matter how vulnerable the people who already live in the house are.

I know of a situation where a female resident was raped by another resident. Was the other resident moved? Nope. The female resident was told by the support workers to “stay away from him” when he was at home.

P-Platers allowed to drive wheelchair bus
with NO training in how to secure wheelchairs

NO safe food handling training required

Workers with no Training

To work at a supported accommodation house in Victoria, the ONLY mandatory requirements are a Level 2 First Aid certificate, a police check and a driving license.

For example (and this happened!), a person could be working at the local pizza shop, have no experience of working with people with disability – and just a few weeks later, be on their own, overnight with 6 residents with high needs.

“He’s not banned”
So I can take him back to the house then?
“No, he can’t go to the house”
Seems like banned to me!

No say in the workers

Many people with disabilities who live in shared supported accommodation require support to do things the rest of us take for granted. For example, showers. Imagine if you require assistance for a shower and you have NO say in who assists you to do that – not even if they are of the opposite sex.

In our situation, we requested a particular worker who was involved in the vast majority of incident reports with my son, to not work with him. That can’t happen apparently because there are times in the house where only one worker is on shift – and the organisation refused to change shifts for that person.

Three government reports into abuse of people with disability found it was widespread and systemic

Widespread and Systemic Abuse

The Federal Senate Inquiry (Nov 2015) and the Victorian State Parliamentary Inquiry (May 2016) found abuse of people with disability in their residential settings was both widespread and systemic. The Senate Report’s number 1 recommendation was to call for a Royal Commission. The Victorian Inquiry Report supported the call for a Royal Commission.

The current Federal Government sees no reason for a Royal Commission.

Thankfully, both Labour and the Greens have now said they will call a Royal Commission into Abuse of People with Disability if they are elected. Let’s hope they are and they do!

WorkSafe Victoria logo

Workplace or Home?

OH&S Rules – literally!

A supported accommodation house, as well as being the residents’ home – is a workplace to the support workers who work there.

In one situation we are aware of, a mother of a resident (who was making valid complaints about the quality of care) was banned from seeing her daughter at the house. The way this was achieved was by using the OH&S Act by alleging “staff stress” caused by the mother being present at the facility.

The system was manipulated by the organisation and the well-being of the staff is considered a higher priority than the well-being of the resident – who was distressed by not being able to see her mother.

No Tenancy Rights

Even though residents pay rent to an organisation for their room in supported accommodation, in Victoria they are not afforded the same rights as a tenant. This means they can be requested to leave in 60 days – or in my son’s case – told not to return to the house (in the middle of a complaint with the Disability Services Commission whose staff told me he wasn’t “banned”, he just couldn’t return to the house!).

This could be a huge problem as the NDIS rolls out. Disability Service providers are already saying NDIS funding is not enough to provide adequate services. There is a great fear from advocates and families of people with complex disabilities, that lack of tenancy rights will mean that some residents are given notice so that “easier” residents can be moved in. Anecdotally, there have already been a few of these situations in NSW where the government is removing themselves as providers of group homes.

This page highlights a few simple examples of the situations that people with disabilities are expected to tolerate if they live in supported accommodation.

All types of abuse and neglect occur with such horrific frequency and sadly, are likely to increase as more demands are put on the system with the rollout of the NDIS.

Would you consent to live in supported accommodation with those situations?

How about having to leave home between 9am – 3pm Monday to Friday because the house isn’t staffed during that period?

How about not leaving the house for 3 months because there was no available funding?

How about being physically disabled and after reporting to management about being bullied by support staff, being kept in bed for four days as a silent punishment?

How about not being able to invite friends over for a BBQ because it’s too “disruptive” to staff supporting other residents?

Would you like to be in the position where you have no other choice but to put your profoundly disabled and vulnerable loved one there?

Or even worse, would you like to be a person living there with no family or advocate support – where you’re totally at the mercy of the support staff?

Or read this news report .. and do as I did .. weep : http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-25/autism-plus-dhhs-ombudsman-report/8981166

It’s a tough place to be at.