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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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Little more than Minder-Care, in Practice!

Some of the findings of the Community Visitors Program in relation to
the quality of life care in group homes, especially DHS, Victoria, direct care

Extracts from the Community Visitors Annual Report, 2011/2012

Compatibility of residents continues to be a serious problem in some houses. One active resident was placed in a DAS house with residents who have complex needs and who are virtually non-verbal. She told Community Visitors she felt isolated and unhappy. She was promised a full-time day placement but still has only minimal parttime hours. Despite some months of advocacy, an application to the Disability Support Register to enable a move had not been completed when Community Visitors last met with DHS management.

One resident from a CSO house over-indulges in alcoholic drinks daily and places himself at risk in the community, assaults staff, and frightens his housemates. He is frequently brought home by police and is at risk of serious harm. Community Visitors contributed to the appointment of an independent advocate. A number of 'expert' disability providers are trying to improve his lifestyle. This remains complex and ongoing and his housemates remain disadvantaged.

In a number of other houses, there are residents who are either violent towards staff or other residents or unsuited to shared living. Community Visitors acknowledge these situations are not easy to resolve but still find it unacceptable to expect more passive, gentle people to live in fear for years on end.

Plenty Residential Services [village style setting:
Unlike Sandhurst and Colanda, which have no admissions policies, this site continues to be used as 'accommodation of last resort' for some people with complex needs and personalities who have challenged the system elsewhere. These people require a situation where, if they should experience an instance of traumatic behaviour, an alarm system is available to alert nearby staff to respond effectively. The outcome of this has been the dislocation of long-term residents from Plenty Residential Services (PRS).

Many of the residents at PRS could live in the community. If DHS provided them with this opportunity then this site could be used for the specific purpose of accommodating people with special needs as a duress alarm system is available for staff to call for assistance when severe behaviours of concern are manifested. It is the opinion of Community Visitors that it would be in everyone's best interest to review the future of PRS and develop a clear vision for the service consistent with both theVictorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 and the principles of the Disability Act.

Planning and community access:
Most residents have a PCP. Community Visitors continue to question the implementation of the planned actions from these lifestyle plans. Despite the introduction of monthly key worker reports to assist in monitoring the plans, the reporting is not in sufficient detail to provide a clear 'picture' of what is or is not happening in an individual's life.

Community Visitors have advocated for months that PRS arrange an Italian-speaking service or volunteer to visit an Italian-speaking resident who is isolated because of her visual impairment, communication needs and intellectual disability. So far, there appears to have been few efforts made to address her situation.

In instances where goals are for increased community access, lack of access to vehicles or insufficient staff support are often reasons given for why goals are not being implemented. These are strong indications of inequality for the people who are housed at PRS.

The situation is so dire that some residents are now using their own savings to pay agency staff to take them out, for example, to have a meal, visit family, or go to a disco. At one visit, an agency staff member arrived and all five men surrounded him, hoping that it was their turn to be going out. Such a sad situation to experience, and one that emphasised how deprived they are of normal opportunities. It is the opinion of Community Visitors that both additional staff support hours and additional vehicles are required to ensure opportunities for equality in human rights for these people.

Rosters are historical and the legacy of this is that staffing hours are often suited more to needs of the staff than the needs of the residents. At the end of the reporting year, Community Visitors were pleased to be informed that a project officer has been appointed to address the findings of the Review of Supervision Arrangements - Plenty Residential Services, August 2011. However, the slow progress on this front continues to disadvantage the residents of PRS.

Leisure activities and recreation:
In a number of houses, residents sit around with no opportunity to engage in any leisure activity. Various reasons are given for this, for example, residents who are blind may trip and fall over items, people with autism may put the items in the rubbish, over the fence, or down the toilet. During the year, Community Visitors have noted from client files, interest in such activities as riding three-wheeler bikes and using trampolines. This has been brought to the attention of management to make such equipment available.

LISA Comment: Some of our members have suffered, and some are still suffering the very adverse effects of the department's failure to provide proper behaviour management, especially for those with exceptional behaviours of concern.

Results of the department 'dumping' totally incompatible clients on residents living in reasonable harmony is a loss for everyone. The sitting residents are often traumatised, and develop adverse behaviours themselves, the incompatible client has no proper behaviour management and the staff are now able to do little more than minder-care.

Opening Plenty Residential Services in early 1998, Dr Napthine, MLA, then Minister for Community Services, said the 94 residents will, probably for the first time in their lives, be able to entertain their friends and family in their own home and participate in all the home-based daily activities that most other people take for granted.

Our observations of PRS, in total contrast with Dr Napthine's predictions, are very similar to those of community visitors. Indeed, before the introduction of the Senior Practitioner, one particular resident was on 34 tablets of medication per day.

Despite the village setting, in recent times, we observe few residents outside of their houses. Our direct internal knowledge is that little occurs inside the homes either. It is little wonder residents lobby the agency workers to go out.

Clearly, they are totally bored! As are many residents of DHS group homes, as it is a traditional public service staff culture to provide little more than minder-care. Those staff who start-out keen to do things with the residents, often get this knocked-out of them by staff lore.

The findings of community visitors that staffing hours are more suited to the needs of staff than the needs of residents. PRS staff are on traditional, institutional style, 12 hour shifts. After eight hours on duty, most people would not feel like doing very much meaningful engagement with the residents.

The role of PRS should be that of facilitating quality behaviour management by qualified, motivated and well remunerated staff, with expectations they achieve meaningful outcomes for those with behaviours of concern, that they may subsequently be compatible for a regular group home.

Extra 1: NDIS Public Forum - Melbourne, 8 November 2012

LISA Inc   ~   Phone: 03 9434 3810   ~   Email:   ~   Address: 73 Nepean Street Watsonia VIC 3087

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