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.
Extra 1: Poverty: The reality of the DSP, by ACOSS and PWDA
Extra 2: The NDIS: One year in - Experiences of Carers in the Hunter Launch Site
Extra 3: Carers doing it tough - caring at home: www.carercard.vic.gov.au
Extra 4: Carers Recognition Act (Victoria) 2012 The Act (Victoria)
LIFESTYLE IN SUPPORTED ACCOMMODATION (LISA) INC.Tel: 03-9434-3810 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Web: www.lisainc.com.au : Blog: www.lisa-aus.blogspot.com
NOTE: We are always interested in feedback and information; general, specific, good or bad. If you wish anonymously: Our mail address is, 73 Nepean Street, Watsonia, 3087