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L.I.S.A Inc
 
LISA... is a parent support and lobby group, for parents and families with a family member having an intellectual or multiple disability, and living in a supported accommodation group home in the State of Victoria, Australia.
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When a parent is not a parent any more!

If you are the legal parent/s of a family member who is unable by reason of their disability to make reasonable judgements in respect of all or any matters concerning their personal circumstances and/or estate.... You need to continue to be so! Whereas the law says, once your family member becomes legally an adult, your parental powers cease!

Some of the practical effects of not being a legal parent of the person with the said degree of intellectual disability can be:- That you are restricted from operating your member's bank accounts, health funds, etc. You suddenly find you have no right to access their medical/health reports. You are denied access to Day Centre and Group Home activity reports. Etc, etc.

Suddenly, a person with no ability to do things for themselves, is legally cut off from the people who are generally the most caring and responsible people they will ever have - Parents! Naturally, this includes other family members! But parents are the ones who had the legal right to act, prior to their family member becoming an adult legally.

Regaining the right to legally act (continue to be a parent) on behalf of your family member who is, "unable by reason of their disability to make reasonable judgements in respect of all or any matters concerning their personal circumstances and/or estate", is to obtain Guardianship from VCAT (the "Victorian Civil and Administrate Tribunal").

There are two levels of Guardianship, "Limited" and "Plenary". "Limited" is generally for short term special events. "Plenary" is "Whole of Life" Guardianship...... Like, continuing to be a full parent!

Where our family member is unable by reason of their disability to make reasonable judgements in respect of all or any matters concerning their personal circumstances and/or estate, we need "Plenary Guardianship"! We consider the, "Responsible Person" legislation is not good enough for a family member with the said level of intellectual disability!

Plenary guardianship can be difficult to obtain, as the guardianship legislation (the "Guardianship and Administration Act 1986) attempts to protect the vulnerable person from over regulation by families and others. The legislation directs the "Tribunal" (VCAT) to ask basic questions.... The Tribunal has to satisfy itself that, (a) the person has a disability, (b) the person is unable by reason of the disability to make reasonable judgements in respect of all or any matters relating to her or his person or circumstances and, (c) the person needs a guardian.

It is the third question which is the stumbling block to obtaining plenary guardianship, because the legislation attempts to protect the vulnerable person from over regulation by a guardian. This is through a section of the legislation which directs the Tribunal to ask if the person's needs can be met by other means less restrictive than guardianship. We don't consider plenary guardianship is restrictive in the hands of caring parents/families Caring parents/families use plenary guardianship as a support to ensuring quality of life care for their vulnerable family member.

Those of us who have an adult family member who is unable by reason of their disability to make reasonable judgements in respect of all or any matters concerning their personal circumstances and/or estate, know very well that they really do need caring parents or other family members who have the legal power to provide the degree of care provision and monitoring their family member needs in a world where the vulnerable are easily exploited.

Rather than concentrating on question (c), Section 22(c) of the legislation, in relation to protecting the vulnerable person from over regulation, we consider the Tribunal should place more emphasis on the on-going eligibility and credibility of those seeking guardianship of a vulnerable person. Of course a person with the said degree of intellectual disability needs a plenary guardian, but they need one with very high moral and ethical standards.

If you feel you need to continue to be a legal parent when your family member becomes an adult, go for "Plenary Guardianship"! 
What the Gippsland Carers Association said about Guardianship & Administration at their May Forum

"Carers were very vocal in their condemnation of the current legislation. Some of the issues for legislative change were" -
  1. Participants said that the current system is not geared towards families and carers. he government strongly encourages family members to fulfil the role of carers but does not provide them with legal standing or adequate support.
  2. The G&A does not pay enough attention to what carers do. Provision should be made in the Act to recognise the carers role.
  3. Families are being treated as guilty and must prove they are innocent this must be changed, carers should be treated as 'innocent till proven guilty.'
  4. There is a strong need for carer support and advocacy with many local examples of how Guardianship can be lost to outsiders without direct support to families being given.
  5. It was believed by some that it is better to remain informal than to be caught up in G&A law and regulations that do not support families well enough.
  6. It was suggested that to deny plenary guardianship orders conflicts with the' least restrictive option.' i.e. if a person with a disability has some capacity they can appoint a family member as an enduring power of attorney!
  7. Some participants said that guardianship should be made ongoing where full-time care was needed and the person had limited capacity.
  8. It was suggested that guardianship is used as a weapon when carers have a conflict with service providers. Some carers have been threatened with orders if they did not comply with the wishes of service providers.
  9. Carers said that they felt pressured to take on the role of administrator when they do not want the role, some felt compelled under threat of appointing 'state trustees'
  10. In practical terms carers do act as administrators and they should not be required to undertake such matters as accounting as this is extra burden on over-burdened families.
  11. It was suggested that if a person with a disability lacks capacity and is cared for by family full time and their only income is a pension, family should be given an EPA and be exempt from annual returns because other pensioners do not have to account for their pension spending i.e. aged and others with capacity.
  12. Administration should only apply where large sums of money are involved.
  13. Carers stated that the alternative to full time family care was a group home that costs in excess of $125,000 per person per annum to taxpayers.
  14. Carers noted that there was a conflict within VCAT itself over the necessity for formal orders/ hearings are too formal and intimidate country people not to have enough regional access.
  15. The OPA needs to be more accountable and respect the role of family in a disabled | person's life. It was suggested that the OPA sides with services too much where conflict arises.
  16. Services have a tendency to want to put people with disabilities into the community, but they take no responsibility for the associated risks. It was asked 'who are the people making decisions about dignity of risk?'

LISA Comment: Not only do parents need the full power of Plenary Guardianship, but they need to live forever as well, given the present questionable and inconsistent services throughout most of Australia.

LISA Inc   ~   Phone: 03 9434 3810   ~   Email: vk3qq@optusnet.com.au   ~   Address: 73 Nepean Street Watsonia VIC 3087

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