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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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Wednesday, October 22 2014

Living Hand to Mouth in Supported Accommodation Group Homes

"Moving down the poverty road!”

There are two basic costs associated with living in a group home.  The ‘support service cost’, and  the ‘residential charge’. 

The support service cost, is the cost of support staff and associated overheads.  This can be in the form of block funding (government funding direct to the service provider), or an ISP (Individual Support Package) per resident - paid to the resident or their administrator.

The residential charge is the cost of day to day living - this generally includes, rent, housekeeping and personal expenditure, but can include other items.  Otherwise, other items such as manchester, whitegoods, clothing, transport, etc, is paid directly by the resident or their administrator.

The Department of Human Services in Victoria (the department) has for years funded the residents of its group homes with block support service funding per resident, with an expectation each resident shall pay their actual daily living cost for rent, housekeeping and personal expenditure – about 55% of the DSP (Disability Support Pension).

In 2013, the Minister for Community Services and Reform attempted to change this 55%, to 75% with no cost justification – just because the legislation says service providers can charge up to this figure, plus 100% of CRA (Commonwealth Rent Assistance).

Residents of department managed group homes in Victoria beat the Minister’s attempt to achieve this.  Not only was the move from a residential charge of 55% of DSP to 75% of DSP beaten, but the department gave their residents a sweetener in the form of free manchester and whitegoods for handing over the full CRA they received from Centrelink when the department bundled the rent and housekeeping components – to be called a residential charge..

Yet most residents of non-government group homes, pay the legislated residential charge of 75% of the DSP, and 100% of the CRA, with no justification – no breakdown of these charges. 

It is well known, the department fails to fully fund non-government services for their support service costs, as the department does its own group home services.

Non-government, not for profit, service providers, often known as CSOs (Community Service Organisations), therefore, have to make up the short fall by charging their residents more, fund raising or using less support staff, or a combination thereof.

The cost difference between DHS and CSO managed group homes creates a ‘them and us’ situation - a discriminatory situation which should not be.  There should be no basic cost difference between the residents of different service providers.  The only cost difference between residents might be slight differences in daily living needs, such as food, clothing, incontenence aids, etc.

The movement towards the legislated 75% of DSP, and residents being charged for every nut and bolt of their care, is fast moving them down the poverty road where many will be forced to seek ‘hardship’ from the department.

Those with so little in their lives per se, will suffer the indignity of living hand to mouth, with any money they may have saved in the past, having to be spent before being entitled to hardship.

The NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) is intended to provide just support service costs of the group home, in the form of an ISP.  Residential charges will remain as determined by the service provider. However, some of that which make up the 75% of DSP, may be negotiable within the NDIS service needs assessment..

The Productivity Commission’s intention that consumers will drive service quality by putting the support service funding in their pocket, rather than the pocket of service providers, is little more than smoke and mirrors  -  as most group home residents do not move easily, and there is unlikely to be sufficient service choice in the foreseeable future. 

Just one example of current DHS accommodation v income is:-

DSP  $1,715.80 + CRA $248 + MA $178.20 = $2,142.00 Total Income.

RENT $231, HOUSEKEEPING $416.64, CRA $248, HOUSE BUS $0, TRANSPORT CRU to DAY SERVICE $0 - Total = $895.64.

Therefore, surplus per month is, $1,246.36 for -

Day Service Admin + Progs $300, Personal Expenditure $200

Clothing $76 + Medication $80 + Masseur $60 + Private Health Insurance $143,00 +

Manchester & Whitegoods $0 - Total =  $859.00

Leaving around $387.36 per month


Just one example of current CSO accommodation v income is:-

DSP  $1,715.80 + CRA $248 + MA $178.20 = $2,142.00 Total Income.

RESIDENTIAL CHARGE $1,518 + CRA $248  = $1,766.  Therefore, surplus per month is, $376.00 for –

Day Service 215 + clothing $76 + manchester $20 + personal expenditure $30

Leaving just $35 per month, with just minimum requirements.

As regards the support service fee, it should be established if this includes "Active Support".  If so, to what degree/extent..

If the support service fee is in an ISP format, the support service will be calculated on the basis of the current ‘unit price’.  This is the hourly rate for support staff, plus overheads.  The current, basic, DHS unit price/cost is $40.79 per hour.  Whereas, the NDIS unit price/cost is around $52 per hour.  ISP Handbook

It is important consumers take the stand, that they should not be expected to  contribute towards the support service costs 

The VPSC (the Victorian Public Sector Commission) is conducting an independent review of residential charges in group homes operated by both the Department of Human Services and not for profit community sector organisations (CSOs).  The VPSC findings are due at the end of the year (2014).  This should reveal some quite unjust anomalies but we feel will do little to stem the movement down the poverty road for many group home residents throughout Victoria.

Note: We acknowledge the above overview is not comprehensive, as there are so many parameters within this complex subject.  The overview is intended to provide food for thought, and help encourage investigation/clarification of the many anomalies. Please advise us of your concerns and findings, and/or comment anonymously on the forum page.

Posted by: HATTON AT 08:19 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, October 17 2014

Keep the Bloated Bureaucratic Bungling, say HACSU
“We are so busy with the paperwork about care, to do the care!"
“Reality and choice versus ideology and confusion!”
"Layers of management that don't!”


HACSU says the Sandhurst Centre, Bendigo, is one of the last congregate care facilities in Victoria, and is scheduled to close in 2016. 

They say the Napthine Government is most likely intending to have the subsequent group home services provided by non-government service providers

This union claims CSOs are struggling to properly fund equitable pay and conditions as the public sector.  They claim lower wages and conditions equals less ability to attract, retain and recruit skilled direct care staff, and the NDIA market-rate for wages and conditions is poor.

HACSU anticipate, if the present government of Victoria is re-elected, they will follow WA and NSW, and move all public sector disability services to the CSOs or profit providers.

This union says the success of the NDIS, and disability services, will depend on having a trained and skilled workforce who are committed to the work.  Without commensurate pay and conditions, this will not occur!

LISA Comment:  The above HACSU, Health and Community Services Union, vision is an affront to not-for-profit CSOs, Community Service Organisations. 

These comments suggest the union’s main concern is retaining and supporting its members, in contrast to level, quality and amount of services for people with disabilities and their families.

Whilst so many parents have to provide support, well into their senior years, for their adult family member with disabilities, the Department of Human Services (DHS/the department) squanders government resources by failing to, and being unable to properly manage its services and resources.

As a consequence, the department fails to fully fund CSOs with support service funding, as they do their own services.  CSOs have to, therefore, charge their residents more, fund raise or use less support staff.  Or a combination thereof.

Since time immemorial, the department has used its despotic powers to totally control every aspect of services funded mainly from state government block funding for people with limited capacity and so little in their lives.

The department’s DSR (Disability Support Register) totally restricts the reasonable human right of choice and control for those living in, or seeking to live in a group home/shared supported accommodation (SSA).  We trust the NDIS will eventually release vulnerable people and their families from the despotic clutches of government services, for them to have real choice and control. 

Residents of SSAs are currently unable to choose their service provider, the department denies its residents real residential tenancy rights, is in totally denial in respect to service level and quality complaints and is unable to properly and consistently manage it services to ensure they are fully and consistently within their extensive and comprehensive care policies, standards and values.

The union’s quest is to retain the department as a service provider, as the department is a soft target to fund their membership with little or no justification this translates into consistent and meaningful quality of care for the residents of department group homes.      

Layers of bloated and dysfunctional public service administration within the department is illustrated by the level of government funding they give themselves, versus the level of government funding they provide to non-government service providers who provide similar services for people with disabilities throughout the state. 

State government group homes receive, on average, $128,000 per resident, per year.  Whereas, non-government group homes receive just $76,000 per resident, per year.

The department has to spend-up-big to compensate for its reactive management's bureaucratic bungling throughout...  Its reactive rather than proactive management buys, rather than properly manages its way!

The department spends-up-big on its massive range of publications - care policies, standards and values.  Incentive is, however, quite limited when it comes to the consistent implementation of the direction, intention and spirit of these care policies, standards and values for whom they are intended - people with disabilities who should be at the centre of service provision, and without whom there would be no DHS.

Successive state governments fund the department, but have little or no control over its systemic operations, or its bureaucratic field-day with public money, whilst tight expectations are set on the short-changed non-government, not for profit, CSO service providers.

If the residents of current block funded group homes were, at the stroke of a pen, given their block support service funding in an ISP (Individual Service Package) format, as well as their human right of real residential tenancy rights, they could, at will, (a) move service providers or, (b) as a group, choose their service provider and directly negotiate their service contract.  This would be real choice and control!

Posted by: HATTON AT 03:22 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, October 17 2014

Disability Worker Exclusion Scheme (DWES)

“Service Provider’s Black List”

The Disability Worker Exclusion Scheme is a new initiative from the Victorian Government designed to further protect the safety and wellbeing of Victorians living in disability group homes.

Consistent with feedback from the disability sector and key stakeholders, the Disability Worker Exclusion Scheme will require disability service providers to conduct an additional pre-employment check under the scheme, prior to making an offer of employment.

The Disability Worker Exclusion Scheme will be implemented in collaboration with disability service providers so that the scheme can commence on 29 September this year (2014).

  • The Disability Worker Exclusion Scheme strengthens existing pre-employment screening processes to better protect people living in disability group homes.

  • Both government and non-government disability service providers will be covered by the scheme.

  • People who pose a proven risk to the health, safety or welfare of people with a disability living in group homes will be listed on the Disability Worker Exclusion Scheme.

LISA Comment: The Department of Human Services, Victoria (the department), is under political pressure to rush this very legalistic and moralistic scheme  into operation.  CSOs have major concerns it has not been well thought through!

The department has certainly not considered the front-end of this scheme, nor of its own major problems in respect to the range of questionable activities of many of its own staff, for which its management, at all levels, is unable / unwilling to properly address.

Clearly identifying the perpetrator of questionable activities in the field of disability services can be a complex, moral and very personal problem for which other staff feel the need to keep well clear. 

This is especially so in department managed services, as those reporting risk exposure by, and the persecution of management who want to send the message to, ‘take the pay and look the other way’, as we don’t want the messy problem of dealing with questionable staff.

Bullying in the workplace can be a double edged-sword.  It can be a tool to intimidate workers, supervisors or managers.

A worker is considered to be bullied if an individual, group, supervisor or manager repeatedly behave unreasonably towards them, and such behaviour creates a risk to their wellbeing.

Whereas, bullying can be a work avoidance tool by those workers who claim being bullied by managers or supervisors who attempt to set, monitor and maintain reasonable work value expectations.

The expectation of reasonable work performance should not be deemed bullying, so long as such has been by reasonable management standards.  However, management standards are like hen’s teeth in the public service, where being a group home house supervisor is often not an enviable task.

Department managed group homes also suffer from ‘house politics’.  These being almost solely as a result of staff lore, resulting from the house supervisor being unable to set, monitor and maintain staff work value expectation to achieve consistent service level and quality within departmental care policies, standards and values, without being bullied.

Direct care staff who are keen to provide their residents with meaningful and consistent quality of life care, strive to have the home be a mentally healthy workplace.

Posted by: HATTON AT 03:00 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, October 17 2014

The Department of Human Services is determined to stay in business, despite all services are intended to be under federal control and standards.  Rather than just provide funding to the NDIA, they are providing their services as part of the state's contribution to the NDIS under an 'in kind' arangement.

With their feet now firmly under the NDIS table in the Barwon region, they clearly intend to become a service provider of choice within the NDIS, across the state. Naturally, they will have HACSU support to continue to provide services with a significant disconnect between service intent and service delivery - as a direct result of the failure of all levels of their public service management, above house supervisor, to ensure there is no disconnect between service intent and service delivery. 

Existing DHS services being provided to the NDIA under this ‘in-kind’ arrangement are:

  • Disability Supported accommodation, Facility based respite and residential institution
  • Department of Human Services provided disability complex case management
  • Department of Human Services provided disability Behaviour Intervention Services
  • Building inclusive communities
  • Statewide services (including Aids and Equipment)
  • Quality, safeguards, risk and contract management
  • Home and community care for people under 65 years (part)
  • Multi-Purpose Taxi Program


Posted by: HATTON AT 02:51 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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