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Sunday, May 19 2013

Department of Human Services, Disability Services, Victoria

Increase in board and lodging fees for the residents of department managed group homes

This information sheet has been developed by the department to respond to frequently asked questions about the Board and Lodging Fee, to be implemented from December 2013, for people with a disability living in department managed group homes.

Residents are concerned the new fee doesn't seem fair - how much is the department going to contribute to the cost of supported accommodation?

The new board lodging fee will bring the average contribution per resident for supported accommodation to approximately $17,500 per annum. The average cost to Government to support a resident in department managed supported accommodation is $128,000 per annum. The fee will cover most of a residents' day to day living expenses.

Who received notification of the new Board and Lodging Fee?

The new Board and Lodging Fee applies to group home residents who pay rent to the Department of Human Services (the department). In-line with section 66 of the Disability Act 2006, notice of the new fee structure including a fee increase was sent to each resident and their administrator. This is the same notification process that has been used for all previous fee increases.

The Department has provided seven months notice of the change (the Act specifies that only two months notice be provided when implementing a fee increase). This was to provide people with an opportunity to understand the change and how it will impact their individual circumstances.

The department is also providing information about the new fee to external stakeholder groups including the Disability Services Commissioner, the Office of the Public Advocate and VALID.

How can staff assist residents and their administrators?

An announcement to staff in relation to the new Board and Lodging Fee was made as early as possible. A comprehensive staff information plan has been developed and will be implemented over the coming months. The plan includes information bulletins such as this Frequently Asked Questions bulletin, divisional information sessions and working groups.

Divisions will be collating issues raised by staff, residents and administrators to ensure that the development of communications materials respond to those specific concerns.

Can we have more detail about how Board and Lodging will work? For example, how much money will be allocated to each group home for food?

The information to residents, administrators and disability accommodation staff, distributed from 3 May 2013, only notified people of a change to the fee structure for department managed group homes and that this would include a fee increase.

Work has commenced to review current policies and practice and to identify changes that are required to implement the new fee structure. Divisional working groups will commence shortly to progress this work over the coming months and will utilise the experience of operational staff to ensure effective policy development.

Detailed information will be provided to staff, residents and administrators as this work is finalised.

What will the actual dollar amount of the new Board and Lodging Fee be?

The next increase to Centrelink payments, including the Disability Support Pension and Commonwealth Rent Assistance (Rent Assistance) payment, will occur on 20 September 2013. The actual dollar amount of the new Board and Lodging Fee cannot be calculated until the amount of this increase is known.

As a guide only, if the new Board and Lodging Fee was applied at the current rates of Disability Support Pension and Rent Assistance, the dollar amount would be approximately $1460 per month.

Note: If residents or administrators enquire, this figure should only be used as a guide to assist them in understanding the impact of the fee increase to be implemented on 1 December 2013.

How can residents dispute the notice of increase with VCAT within 28 days if they don't know the actual dollar amount?

The notice of fee increase provides sufficient detail about how the fee will be calculated and what will be included in the fee to enable a resident or their administrator to apply to VCAT to dispute the notice.

How will the implementation of the new fee impact the workload of house supervisors, operational managers and CERS officers?

When the Board and Lodging Fee is introduced, the overall process for managing housekeeping funds in a group home will be similar to the current process. Review of current policies and practice has identified opportunities to reduce workload and in some cases remove some activities entirely, such as the completion of housekeeping plans.

Developments, such as the introduction of Westpac Debit Mastercards, will reduce workload and provide greater flexibility in how finances are managed in the group home. For example, staff currently make multiple trips to the ATM over several days to collect sufficient funds to pay large utility bills. This will no longer be required as the Debit Mastercards enable online and telephone purchasing. Also, utility bills will not be paid by group home staff after 1 December 2013.

The divisional working groups will further consider opportunities to achieve workload efficiencies.

Who will apply for the Rent Assistance payment?

It will be the administrator's role to advise Centrelink that the resident's accommodation details have changed. Centrelink will then assess the person to determine if Rent Assistance is payable. The Rent Assistance will be paid directly to the resident via their administrator.

The department will work with Centrelink to discuss opportunities to ensure this is a smooth administrative process for residents and their administrators. Further advice will be provided closer to the implementation of the new Board and Lodging Fee.

What if the administrator does not apply for Rent Assistance or is considered ineligible?

The Board and Lodging Fee is equivalent to 75 per cent of the Disability Support Pension and 100 per cent of the Rent Assistance. If the person does not apply for the Rent Assistance, they will still be required to pay the equivalent amount.

If the person is not eligible for Rent Assistance as a result of the Centrelink income test, they will still be required to pay the equivalent amount of the full Rent Assistance payment.

If the person is not eligible for the Rent Assistance for other reasons, this will be considered on an individual basis.

Residents might have other income, such as Mobility Allowance payments and Continence Aids payments. Is this income considered in the calculation of the Board and Lodging Fee?

No. The Board and Lodging Fee will not consider other sources of a person's income, such as other allowances or subsidies that a person may receive to assist them in meeting their personal expenses.

What happens if a resident or administrator feels they cannot afford the new Board and Lodging Fee?

The Board and Lodging Fee will affect the income of individuals in different ways and should be considered on a case by case basis.

The Department has provided seven months notice of the change (the Act specifies that only two months notice be provided when implementing a fee increase). This was to provide people with an opportunity to understand the change and how it will impact their individual circumstances.

If a resident or their administrator feels they are unable to afford the new Board and Lodging Fee an application can be made for consideration under the 'Undue Financial Hardship' process.

What does the Undue Financial Hardship process involve?

An application form is completed by the administrator that provides details of the resident's total income and expenditure. The application also seeks additional information that should be taken into consideration. For example a resident may have very high medical costs not covered by Medicare or the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme that need to be considered.

Support will be provided to staff and managers involved with this process including additional guidance around application of the policy and systems to ensure consistent decision making across the state.

Will there be reimbursement processes for residents who don't consume food because they use a PEG tube or because they are absent from the group home?

There will still be a process for reimbursing residents whose food intake is significantly reduced. The method for assessing and calculating reimbursements will be reviewed through divisional working groups to ensure there is consistency across all department managed group homes.

How will the Board and Lodging Fee apply to residents of Plenty Residential Services and ex-St Nicholas group homes who already pay a Board and Lodging Fee?

The new Board and Lodging Fee of 75 percent of Disability Support Pension and 100 percent of Rent Assistance will apply to all group homes where residents pay rent to the department. This includes ex-St Nicholas and Plenty Residential Service group homes.

The letter that was sent to residents and families in early May 2013 provided a generic list of inclusions that will be provided to all people paying a Board and Lodging Fee.

Residents of ex-St Nicholas and Plenty Residential Service group homes will continue to be provided with the same service items that they currently receive.

New residents who move into ex-St Nicholas and Plenty Residential Service group homes will receive the same service items currently provided in these group homes.

How will finances be managed at Singletons Equity, Housing Choices Australia and private rentals?

The Board and Lodging Fee only applies to residents who pay rent to the department.

If residents pay rent to a different provider, such as a housing association there will be no change to how expenditure is managed in their homes.

Will residents still be able to share the cost of some items?

Yes. Where more than one resident agrees to share the cost of something, for example regular newspaper delivery or the care of a pet, this can be done through each residents financial plan.

What changes will there be to the process of allocating and maintaining Westpac Debit Mastercards?

There will be some changes to the process for allocating Debit Mastercards to staff and for maintaining this information. These changes are designed to resolve many of the issues that are raised regarding the current process which appears to vary significantly in its efficiency across the state.

Further development of the process associated with allocating and maintaining Debit Mastercards will be progressed by divisional working groups.

Posted by: HATTON AT 02:32 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, May 17 2013

The Department of Human Services, Disability Services, Victoria, is demanding a 50% increase in living expenses from its supported accommodation group home residents, to allow it to continue as a service provider under the NDIS, as well as help offset the state’s share of NDIS funding. This out-of-control government department is seeking to have its bread buttered both sides!

For years this department has made sure it had financial popularity to offset its very poor service record.  This was done by underfunding the non-government services, so they have to charge their residents more to compensate for the shortfall in support-service funding provided to them by the department. 

The department, consequently, being able to provide more support service funding to their own services, with their residents paying less than the residents of non-government services.

Whereas, now, the department’s priority is to stay a service provider under the NDIS.  This means it has to take a lower support service fee to compete with non-government services.  Having no scruples, the department is prepared to scalp its residents, in its desperate quest to stay as a service provider when all support service funding is from the NDIS.  Yet it can be virtually guaranteed, the service level and quality will not change for the better in consequence of the proposed 50% increase in what DHS residents are currently paying.

Therefore, if the DHS stays as a service provider under the current public service, charity hand-out regime, developed under the block-funding culture, residents will eventually pay their NDIS, ISP, for similar department charity hand-out services.

Whereas if we consider the marketplace scenario, where the families of six residents in a supported accommodation group home are financially able to pay both the service fee and the accommodation (B&L) fee, “Would they not expect a first class service in every way, and with wall to wall customer service?”  “Of course, they would!  Indeed, they would insist it was!” 

In total contrast, the captive market scenario is where the service fee is from government block funding or, in the case of the NDIS, from government in the form of an ISP,  The natural question is, therefore, “Why is the captive market service not similar to the marketplace service? 

In general, this is because service provider management and staff see residents and their families who take government funding, as bludging off the government.  And consider residents and their families should feel eternally grateful for whatever the staff do or don’t do, and should never, ever, complain.

We ask the question, “Why is the level and quality of service so dependent on the funding source?”  We suggest this is because service management and staff have a sense of safe employment in a captive market situation.  Whereas in a marketplace situation, service management and staff feel responsibility is a requirement to retain their employment.

There is significant concern the captive market situation will not be broken with NDIS, ISPs.  The captive market is far too entrenched to be enhanced by a mere change of funding source.  An over-supply of service providers would be needed to make serious inroads into the captive-market culture. 

Consequently, little more, than more of the same charity hand-out services, in contrast to entitlement services, will likely result from NDIS funded support services.                 

 

Posted by: HATTON AT 05:26 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, May 10 2013

Culture of fear throughout…

Throughout the range of support services for vulnerable people, disability and aged-care, there is a traditional culture of fear to speak out – fear to question – fear to even ask. 

Within the disability field, fear of intimidation and retribution is the number one reason sighted  by the ODSC as why families are reluctant to report questionable service occurrences which, directly or indirectly, adversely affect their family member with a disability.    

Overall, there is a traditional culture which considers people are good-kids if they can get something for nothing – wrought the system.  And, there is the public service culture which considers those who report questionable occurrences are undesirables, and are treated as such to ensure they don’t do it again.  The message being - no dobbing .

Translated into practical terms, public service management of direct care services for people with disabilities do not want the problem, the politics and the paperwork of having to deal with a situation where one staff member is reporting on another, or reporting client abuse and/or intimidation.  Or, the politics and paperwork where items on public service property, considered fair-go by the good-kids, go walkabout. 

Public service reactive management consider it is far easier to stop or persecute the person reporting.  This sends a clear message to that person, and those thinking of doing similar, not to report on others.  Thus relieving public service reactive management of man-management problems.  Turning a blind-eye to the questionable activities of the ‘fair-go, good-kids’, saves undesirable effort, politics and paperwork.

Fear extends to CSOs who take funding from government departments  These departments consider the supply of funding gives them the right to treat CSO in any way they like, even their peak body, NDS, is not immune from government department intimidation.

The amount of energy and resources used in bureaucratic manoeuvring is awesome in comparison with that used in providing meaningful support services to those for whom the whole service system is intended – vulnerable people.

Apart from the adverse effect on those for whom the support services are intended, one of the most disappointing factors of this political-warfare is the effect on those having just done various training courses, where they are taught the  important aspects of providing quality of life care.  Whereas, when they arrive at a care facility, all keen to implement what they have learnt, they are told by traditional minder-care staff, “We don’t do all that rubbish here, and you had better not either!”

There is a similar culture amongst police.  Cadets are taught at the police academy all the good things they should do when they graduate.  They arrive at their first station, after their training, all keen to get on the streets and apply what they have been taught, only to be confronted by the duty sergeant who tells them, “We have enough to do without you going out looking for problems – sit quietly behind that desk!”

During the four year period Heather worked, as an ACRACS in various aspects of the disability field, especially supported accommodation group homes and similar, she had to be actively discouraged from reporting the abuse and intimidation of clients, as she would have been seen by department management as a trouble maker, and we needed her behind the closed-doors of the facilities as long as possible.

It is standard practice in the public service, and in many captive market organisations, that those who report problems or, attempt to improve the service for those for whom it is intended, are treated as shocking trouble makers and persecuted for ever more.  Whereas, the perpetrators are, at worse, just moved to another facility to repeat their questionable activities.                 

Posted by: HATTON AT 09:43 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, May 08 2013

The Residents of DHS supported accommodation group homes in Victoria  are to be slugged an outrageous 50% increase in their board and lodging

In accordance with Section 66 of the Disability Act 2006, you are advised of a change in how the fees for disability residential services will be structured and of an indexation increase.

Following consideration of the fee structures for accommodation in disability residential services, a standardised board and lodging fees model will be introduced in Department of Human Services (the department) managed disability residential services on December1, this year.

The board and lodging fees model will not change the support and accommodation provided to residents.

The board and lodging fee brings the amount residents pay for accommodation and lodging in Victoria into line with other states as well as other types of supported residential accommodation.

The board and lodging fee will take 75% of the full Disability Support Pension rate and the full CRA. A person who receives a lower pension amount as a result of age eligibility will be charged a proportionately lower fee.

The Board and Lodging Fee covers the cost of:

•     rent

•     utilities, including communications and telephone

•     communal furniture and whitegoods

•     food

•     general household consumable supplies, such as cleaning products and light
      globes

•     household equipment and utensils

•     laundry and household cleaning

•     lawn-mowing.

Residents will also be provided with:

•     repairs and maintenance to the property, fittings and fixtures, communal furniture
      and whitegoods.

•     transport, to the extent provided by the facility (and detailed in the individuals
      residential statement).

Residents, their families and carers have the right under the Act to apply to VCAT for a review of the decision to issue this notice. An application must be made within 28 days of the issue of the notice.

DHS Board & Lodging Fee information sheet – LINK

LISA Comment:  This state government department shows no justification in economic terms for this huge increase.  The department has never stated it has a deficit under the current charges, just that it is making the gross increase to come in-line with other states  Therefore, the department is set to reap a good Christmas windfall from its residents across the state.

It is estimated each resident will pay around an extra $360 per month.  From 1000 residents, the department would collect an extra $4M per year.    

Posted by: HATTON AT 06:08 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, May 02 2013
NDIS Workforce Ready Project - LINK
The NDIS Workforce Ready Project is researching and developing draft models for potential professional certification for people who work in the disability sector.
Views are being sought from people across Australia, including: people with a disability; families; carers; disability workers; managers and staff from disability services; and representatives from disability organisations and governments. We want to know how people with disability, their families and service providers might recognise that a person might be ‘right for the job’.

An online survey, interviews and focus groups are being conducted until the 17 May. For more information and to link to the online survey or register your interest in focus groups and interviews ­ see the NDIS Workforce Ready web-site at http://ndisworkforceready.org/2013/04/have-your-say/.

The Project has been funded by the Commonwealth Government (Practical Design Fund) to help prepare for DisabilityCare Australia, the national disability insurance scheme. The project is being conducted as a collaboration between Cootharinga North Queensland, AVANA Community, Australasian Disability Professionals, and Deakin University.

***************************************

Your support and input to the research is very much appreciated.

NB: the consultation, including the online survey close on the 17 May.
Apologies for the tight time frames.

Megan Lindsay
Executive Research Officer
AVANA Community
ph: 0422 726 657
NDIS Workforce Ready: http://ndisworkforceready.org/
Posted by: HATTON AT 10:03 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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