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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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Friday, October 26 2012

The practical effect of administrators having no legal right to check their adult person’s property under the Guardian & Administration Act in Victoria. And the power of DHS staff to restrict families.

Parent ‘A’:

Over the years the staff of the DHS group home have not let me go through my son’s personal effects - his clothes, mainly.

My son, very much an adult in body, is unable by reason of his disability to make reasonable judgements in respect of all or any matters concerning his personal circumstances and/or estate.

Every time I have asked to do this, the staff told me they will do this, and I will be told what he needs, or will be given a bag of clothes to be repaired. This has gone on for years!

Quite recently a new house supervisor suggested, to my utter surprise and delight, that we should both go through my son’s clothes and see what he needs.

Well, we spent a very productive day sorting through the whole of my son’s clothes, ending-up with 13 (standard green garbage) bags of clothes which were far too small for him, damaged or unsuitable.

Most of the 13 bags were of clothes which were now so small that they must have been there for years – clothes which would fit a small child. Clearly, the various staff, over the years, had sorted nothing and had restricted me from doing so.

In sorting through the whole lot, we put labels on the clothes which were relevant and good, ironed them and put them away. We then discarded the 13 bags to the charity bins.

Parent ‘B’:

Over as many years as I can remember, I have been treated like an intruder whenever I go to see my son at his DHS group home. Anytime my son invites me to his room, staff are watching.

Whenever I have suggested to him we really should check his clothes together, he is happy for me to do this. But staff have always told him that his mother is not to touch his personal property.

As my son has a business friend of ours as his administrator, I suggested he should give me authority to check my son’s personal effects for integrity. He said that legally, he does not have the power under the Guardianship & Administration Act to even do this himself.

Finally after much pressure on the DHS, the staff were directed by DHS management to go through my son’s clothes. They found many bags of old clothes which had been thrown under the group home for years. The staff then had the gall to dump these on me, for checking and disposal.

LISA Comment: Under the Guardianship & Administration Act, administrators have no legal right to check the integrity of their person's personal property - clothing, for example.

If the person's family is restricted from doing so, no one independent of the service provider does a check.

State Trustees are administrators for many people. Not only do they, also, have no legal power under the Act, but they have few resources to regularly check the integrity of their clients' personal property.

As Heather discovered when she worked behind the closed doors of group homes, especially DHS group homes, clothing integrity can be very questionable.

Posted by: Hatton AT 05:02 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, October 26 2012

The following experiences are very common throughout the Department of Human Service, Disability Services (Victoria).

They are as a direct result of the failure of all levels of department management to properly, consistently and proactively manage the business of ensuring the level and quality of care and support is consistently within the direction, intention and spirit of departmental care policies, standards and values.

Story 1.

When I first started working for DHS, Disability Services, group homes, I would go home crying, and thought I may not be able to do this job.

After five years, I still feel the same. And, constantly think about those who live in these places, and are left day after day to stare at four walls, with little or no engagement or interaction.

Most staff actually believe that as long as we provide food and shelter, that's enough. How can that be enough for people who are so disadvantaged in having so little in their lives?

I an repeatedly told ,I have to leave my work, at work. And be professional. How can one do that when one works with people, not material objects.

I was thinking about becoming a Community Visitor, as I am always happy to see them.

What makes me angry, is staff pretend to community visitors that everything is perfect, and the residents receive high level of care. So untrue!

Then you have people who say, “You can't change the system, just learn to live with it. If you can’t do that, leave!”

I do casual work now, as I am sick of house politics – staff more concerned with bickering and back-biting, than caring for the residents.... I was on contract few times, but still found the general staff negative attitude towards the residents so depressing.

In the Cert4 classes, they say you will be able to do all these lovely things. But but this is rarely so in reality, at the group homes.

Everything is about intimidation, bullying and unions. The big one is the OH&S issues. It’s all about staff rights and choices, not the residents. Such negative attitudes!

Story 2

After working with scope in the early 90's I was talked into crossing over to DHS EMR.

I thought that such a big organisation must be at the forefront of disability reform.

Whereas, I discovered the culture to be toxic and lacking in those areas of equality that I was so used to at Scope.

My time with the DHS, Disability Services, was a constant battle with a culture of falsehood and embedded ongoing conflicts of interest that lead me into a world of cover your butt at all times.

This never sat well with me, so I was constantly isolated.

I witnessed the most degrading withdrawals of human rights and accepted levels of abuse. I was repeatedly being transferred to other houses, because I was reporting this.

The cover ups were always under the control of area managers and their underlings.

I moved to DHS NWMR, thinking it couldn't get any worse. Wrong! The total acceptance of the degrading, abusive and inappropriate treatment of residents is terrifying at first - then just plain unacceptable!

So I resigned from the DHS, and moved back to the non-government sector.

LISA Comment: Most care level and quality within DHS direct care services is by staff lore, not management 'law' (control & direction). Staff integrity fluctuates without good and consistent management direction.

Posted by: Hatton AT 04:58 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, October 24 2012

Thousands of disabled young people across NSW are stuck in nursing homes because of the fragmented nature of services and agencies responsible for their care, a summit has heard.

About 6500 disabled people nationally, some as young as 20, live in aged care facilities.

In NSW about 2,500 young people are housed in facilities set up to care for those aged 65 and over.

Speaking at the Young People in Nursing Homes (YPINH) Leader's Summit, Disabilities Minister Andrew Constance said while nursing homes have the staff and equipment to support disabled young people, the quality of life for those young people suffers.

"I once met a young person forced to live in a nursing home who said to me ... he's sick of watching Days of Our Lives in the middle of the day and having to endure the same activities that are on offer to those who are over the age of 65," Mr Constance said.

YPINH spokesman Alan Blackwood told AAP more funding and better coordination between service providers and government health, housing and disability departments was needed to help young disabled people leave nursing homes.

Several programs and pilot schemes have been launched, but because they span over several government portfolios and service providers, there is a danger of people "falling through the cracks," Mr Blackwood said.

Funding from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will help service providers better organise their approach to caring for young disabled people, Mr Blackwood added.

"But it won't solve all of (the problems) unless we get health to actually work with the NDIS and do its bit."


Posted by: Hatton AT 05:05 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, October 21 2012

"Community Visitors regularly report that residents have limited opportunities to realise their individual capacities".

This might be due to poor access to affordable transport or staff shortages or inadequate support. In many cases, residents are not able to make genuine choices about such things as who they live with, activities they engage in or even when they retire.

Sadly, many people still have unmet communication needs, so are unable to actively participate in the decisions that affect their lives or to understand the information that might help them to do so.

The principles of the Disability Act state that people with a disability have the same rights as other members of the community to:

  • respect for their human worth and dignity live free from abuse, neglect and exploitation
  • realise their individual capacity for physical, social, emotional and intellectual development
  • exercise control over their own lives • participate actively in the decisions that affect their lives and have information and be supported where necessary to enable this to occur
  • access information and communicate in a manner appropriate to their communication and cultural needs and services to support their quality of life.

In practice, it is often difficult for people living in residential services to fully exercise these rights.

The Public Advocate says in the OPA Annual Report:

“A pressing concern this year has been increased reporting of allegations of abuse and neglect. Consequently, the Public Advocate has implemented a ‘notification’ process to ensure staff alert her formally in writing of any serious abuse allegations. The information enables her to take the necessary informed action with the Department of Health and DHS to protect the safety of the vulnerable residents visited”.

Community Visitors Report (LINK)

Public Advocate Report (LINK)

LISA Comment: Questionable activities against vulnerable people in both its direct and indirect services will never be reduced or eliminated whilst the Department of Human Service, Victoria, totally fails to properly, consistently and pro-actively manage its care and support services.

This may be a bridge too far, as traditional public service culture is safe employment and an obligation only to be at one’s workplace. Therefore, it is almost impossible for a DHS group home supervisors, for example, to direct staff per se - certainly not to provide more than minder-care.

All our inside contacts say that most staff who attempt to provide residents with quality of life care, with regular engagement/interaction, PCAS and PBS, are often intimidated and ridiculed and told, “We don’t do all that rubbish here!” “Why are you talking to that resident, he can’t understand you?”

Posted by: Hatton AT 05:08 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, October 16 2012

The original intention of the NDIS principle was to provide a format for rights/entitlement based services for all people with disabilities and their families.

Much of the culture of service provision being, “You are lucky to have us looking after your family member, we are doing you a big favour! You should be very appreciative and never complain!” came out of institutions and moved into group homes in the community – especially government direct service group homes.

With service provision being captive market, bulk funded, government direct service, especially, has little reason for customers (consumers) or customer service. So the original intention of the NDIS principle was, (a) to reduce the service waiting lists with entitlement-based services and, (b) move those with services from the charity/hand-out model, to an entitlement model.

The Productivity Commission opted for consumers to drive the market place towards service quality and entitlement with consumer (ISP) funding, rather than the service provider being funded.

There is movement towards a trial of ISPs for those on the service waiting list. Whereas those in existing bulk-funded services, have been placed in the NDIS too hard basket.

Much of the media reported abuse, neglect, intimidation and minder-care, is as a direct result of service providers, especially government direct, having little reason for customers (consumers) or customer service, as they have safe employment no matter what they do, or don’t do. This is reinforced in government direct services by the traditional public service culture of safe employment – requiring just appearance at the workplace.

The simple answer is to re-format the bulk funded service packages to ISP. As most bulk-funding is from state governments, this would need to be transferred to the federal government to be reallocated as ISPs.

With the residents of group homes having control through their ISP and residential tenancy rights, they could ‘hire and fire’ service providers, or move to other services, and service providers would need to see the residents and their families as valued.

Posted by: Hatton AT 05:13 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, October 14 2012

Where a consumer makes a complaint to public service management about the level and quality of service. Management insists any meeting in relation to the complaint(s) be attended by both the staff in question and the consumer.

This way, the manager can assume the role of ‘mediator’, rather than ‘director’, inferring he or she is not taking sides. Therefore staying sweet with the staff - and that he or she is on their side.

In contrast to taking a responsible management role of hearing the consumer’s complaints without staff present or having any knowledge, covertly investigating the consumer’s complaint(s) and, if necessary, taking action against the staff as if the complaint was as a direct result of the management’s investigation of service delivery and procedure – proper business management

Posted by: Hatton AT 05:18 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, October 14 2012

The group in charge of Victoria's biggest infrastructure projects manages work poorly, increasing the risk of error and fraud, a scathing report has found.

Victorian Auditor-General Des Pearson said Major Projects Victoria was "not able to demonstrate that it operates, and manages infrastructure projects effectively, efficiently or economically".

In his Managing Major Projects report, Mr Pearson outlined deficiencies in the way MPV monitors its performance, claiming there was little transparency in its self-assessment process.

"MPV adopts employment practices that do not represent value for money and lack transparency and integrity," the report reads.

"These practices have included employees resigning and being reengaged soon after to perform the same work at a much higher cost to the public."

Mr Pearson also reported that MPV was at increased risk of fraud and error because of its poor management of internal contracts.

Major Projects Minister Denis Napthine said the report highlighted the previous Labor government's mismanagement of projects.

"This report, tragically for Victorians, is a damning indictment of major projects under the previous Labor government," he said.

He said a new head of MPV had been appointed earlier this year and the Government had installed a new system to monitor projects across the state.

Opposition spokesman Tim Pallas said lessons needed to be learned from the report, but defended experienced personnel working in MPV: "This report can be a lesson for all governments or it can be an opportunity for a government intent on allocating blame elsewhere to continue to do nothing and to live in fear of failure."

Mr Pearson said projects managed by MPV were valued at about $35.6 billion, with projected spending of around $7.6 billion in the 2013-14 financial year.

The Auditor-General made 22 recommendations that Dr Napthine said would be adopted.

VAGO Report (LINK)

LISA Comment: We see yet another example of government funding, but failing to control the public service. The Department of Human Service is a classic example of ministers being 'mediators' rather than 'controllers'.

Posted by: Hatton AT 05:15 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, October 13 2012

With the current trend towards ISPs for SDAs (Individual Support Package for Self Directed Approaches)- living in the community with support from an ISP, housing is always the big question.


Posted by: Hatton AT 05:20 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, October 09 2012

Advocacy, Self Advocacy, Rights, Accessibility, & Community Living for People with a Disability in Supported Accommodation Group Homes by Mary Reid, Amida, Melbourne, Phone: 9650 2722 Fax: 9654 8575 Email: Website: Inc No: A001608SV ABN: 32 993 870 380.

“My role is to visit, explain and empower the residents of shared supported accommodation (SSA) group homes with information about their housing rights. This is important, as these rights are now law in Victoria”, says Ms Reid.

“I have already visited many SSAs around Victoria, to explain and provide all residents with information about their housing rights”, she says.

Sessions with residents and family members are interactive and focus on the rights and responsibilities of residents living in ‘their’ home.

In a circular letter, Ms Reid says she will be visiting more houses soon, and asks that people submit the visit request form.

LINK to what Amida says are RIGHTS

LISA Comment: We consider the process is little more than a DHS HO funded smoke and mirrors exercise!

The DHS can't consistently implement their own care policies, standards and values in their group homes, due to public service staff lore, staff intimidation of management and peer pressure.

Their group homes are staff workplaces, not the residents' home!

Intimidation is the number one ODSC reason people with disabilities and their families don't complain. So why would they want to risk speaking-out about their rights in the house?

The only people with rights in a DHS group home, is the public service staff. DHS management protect the staff no matter what they do, or don't do!

DHS HO tell it how it should be, not how it is… They fund this sort of project, so they look good, but have no power over the regions to ensure it is effective, hence - smoke and mirrors.

Posted by: Hatton AT 05:22 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, October 08 2012

Family members who are supporting a person with a disability, need to unite yesterday, today and tomorrow. The "sea of discontent" is a thousand miles wide and a millimeter deep.

Get busy(-er) and express your issues/opinions in newspapers, to your local member of parliament, to all members of parliament, to community leaders, on websites (like this), on TV, on radio, to friends, relatives, people everywhere.

Tell them until they can't stand it and they join the fight!

Posted by: Hatton AT 05:25 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, October 02 2012

Matthew Potocnik has faith in the power of art to stir empathy and promote understanding.

The Brunswick resident's experiences as a father and disability advocate have shaped his recent work, a maquette (or small scale model) he calls, "The Gatekeeper".

It is a complex and harrowing piece, attempting to convey how bureaucracy can affect the family of a child with a disability.

Among the features are a Dattesque weeping eye, a belt of keys and a vague formless face Potocnik says represents how accountability can be lost. The "sea-urchin face" he says, is "almost like a Vietnamese fish trap, where you can swim in, but you can't swim out There is also an innocent child clutching a key triumphantly - a concession to hope.

Potocnik wants a commission to built the statue at the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission in Lygon Street. He says it would remind visitors of the lives affected by disability, lives sometimes forgotten.

It is days after Potocnik's 50th birthday, eleven years ago, he celebrated the day by bringing his son Levi home from the hospital.

Levi was born with Angelman Syndrome. He can't walk or talk and experiences seizures and sleep disruptions. He requires constant care.

Potocnik says his son communicates with his eyes and through smiles. "Our son is the epitome of cheeky innocence; he has such a lot of character".

"His condition means he is a very happy and giggly small child. When we can get help looking after him, the people love him."

For years Potocnik and his wife fought to secure regular funding to support Levi. The couple attempted to juggle work,- caring for their son and going through the stress of having to reapply for assistance regularly.

Last year the pressure took its toll on the family; funding couldn't be found, the couple's health failed and both were hospitalised. For six weeks Levi was placed in emergency care.

"The government policies sound really good, but they are under resourced and under supported," he says.

"When people have to give up their child because they can't get support - that is a disgrace."

The family recently won funding from the Department of Human Services through an individual Support Package.

The family contributed to a report by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Hurnans Right Commission, and Potocnik unveiled his sculpture at the report's launch this year.

He hopes his art helps people understand that difference has a place in the community.

"I want my art to educate people in the broader community about human tights, the function of bureaucracy and the empowerment of the individual."

Pictures of the "GATEKEEPER" - LINK

LISA Comment: Matthew has, in his various roles, been a fighter for people with disabilities for many years.

Like most of us, he has beaten his head against the bloody minded bureaucratic barriers to common sense.

We believe his "Gatekeeper", outside DHS HO Victoria, is to depict the department's despotic gatekeeping attitude towards people with disabilities and their families ...

This is the bureaucratic "power over people in a captive market" which the DHS wield over the lives of vulnerable people - people with disabilities and their families.

Comment: There is a dire need for a Royal Commission to investigate disability service provision in the State of Victoria. The bureaucracy, which has to be fought and negotiated with in order to procure an already promised ISP, is deceitful and damaging to families who are already suffering emotional and financial hardship.

Posted by: Hatton AT 05:27 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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