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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
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