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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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Residential Rorts

“The rot has set in!”

Residential Charges without Justification:

Since the Minister for Disability Services and Reform, the Hon Mary Wooldridge, MLA, tried to get 2.500 Department of Human Services (DHS/department) group home residents throughout Victoria to pay an extra 50% (75% of their DSP) without justification, recent grouping (bundling) of rent and housekeeping has achieved, (a) a block, aged-care style, fee structure which provides a windfall for government from the CRA (Commonwealth Rent Assistance), (b) a structure which provides for easy and unjustified increase of fees, from time to time, over time and, (c) a 40% fee (70% of the DSP) increase on all new residents with no justification.  So the Minister will eventually achieve her original goal and more, by stealth and sleaze.

The “Scale of Residential Charges” – effective 1 April 2014, shows the department is expecting those who become residents, after 1 April 2014, to pay, $1,435.63 per month from their current DSP (Disability Support Pension) of, $1654.20 per month

With the CRA of $269.59 per month removed from the $1,435.63, this is then $1,166.04, which equals 70% of the DSP.  This is an overall increase of 40% on actual cost of rent and housekeeping currently being paid by existing residents, and based on the same list of service components. 

The 2,500 existing residents, those prior to 1 April 2014, pay the actual cost of rent and housekeeping, which equates to around 50% of their DSP.  This group is identified in the department’s ‘Scale of Residential Charges – 1 April 2014’ as, “Board and lodging individually calculated fee”.

Both groups are expected to pay 100% of the full CRA.

The department has clearly manoeuvred the CRA entitlements to obtain a windfall of around $4.6M across the state  This is especially as it has failed to, (a) admit this windfall, (b) openly show exactly how it will use this and, (c) show why adding a living component (housekeeping) to rent makes it CRA eligible - when the general population is not permitted to do similar.

We question how the department is justifying the charge for new group home residents of 40% (70%  of their DSP) more than it actually costs (for ‘rent and housekeeping’), as well as the full CRA which covers everything not covered by the housekeeping component, and for which there is a significant surplus providing the department with a commonwealth windfall.

Resident’s Trust Fund Raided:

The residents of group homes managed by the Department of Human Services (DHS) pay their residential charges through the said trust fund. The resident or their administrator pay money into the trust fund, and the fund, managed by State Trustees, pays the DHS the residents’ day to day living costs. 

The fund, set up under the Disability Act 2006, is legislated to ensure only the resident or their administrator can authorise payments from the fund.  Authority is given by the residents or their administrators providing the signed authority of a financial plan’ or purchase order.  

Following the B&L / CRA saga (above), those who did not sign their new financial plan on the due date, as they were yet to receive the CRA (Commonwealth Rent Assistance), subsequently discovered the new charges had been withdrawn from their trust fund account, despite the resident or their administrator gave no authority.

Rent Component Rorted:

The rent component is a major ‘Choice & Control’ factor for residents of group homes for those with intellectual and multiple disabilities.

The residents of most such group homes have so little in their lives, with most group homes being little more than hostels, mini institutions or staff workplaces.  Certainly not real homes where the residents have control of their front door with real residential tenancy rights and ISP (Individual Service Package) support service funding.

Control of the front door is what most in the community have.  Those in the community who own their own home have total control, except for Police with a warrant.  Those who rent have, in addition, their landlord who must have an agreement to enter. 

In total contrast, most group home residents have no control whatsoever.  In Victoria, group home residents are specifically denied residential tenancy rights by Section 23 of the Residential Tenancies Act.

With real residential tenancy rights and support service funding in an ISP format, the residents of group homes would have the wherewithal to move to the house of another service provider or, as a group, get a new service provider and negotiate their service contract.       

“Mandatory Reporting - Disability Services” - a letter to the state government of Victoria by Max Jackson of JacksonRyan Partners:

The government is to be congratulated on its continued actions to protect children in the state of Victoria.  A significant element of the protective initiatives is that of mandatory reporting by particular categories of people.  

just as it is generally agreed by society that protecting our children is a must, and I acknowledge the recent budget allocation of $198.4 million for better support and services for vulnerable children and families, I also put to you that we as a society, and you as representatives of the government, also no doubt hold the belief that other vulnerable people, including those  with disabilities, should also be protected to the same degree as our children.  Thus, while I also acknowledge the budget announcement of - “The $204 million investment by the Victorian Coalition Government strengthens its commitment to putting individuals with disability at the centre of decisions about their own lives and their care.”   I contend that none of this directly relates to the issue of mandatory reporting.

I therefore ask  - When does the government  intend to amend the Disability Act 2006 by including mandatory reporting requirements by particular  classifications of  people – including all staff working in disability service provision - including direct care, management  and supervisory positions as well as those associated with the sector including advocates, families, and support professionals? 

Please note, that while I acknowledge the Department of Human Services does have an Incident Reporting requirement, this is not enshrined in legislation and is target limited in terms of potential reportees.   Further,  it is not exclusively targeted as being specifically and only related to abuse, neglect, violence and exploitation, but instead adopts a broad-sweep approach.

I emphasise that for the government not to invoke mandatory reporting as relating to people with disabilities would seriously bring into question the government’s alleged commitment to people with disabilities.  I therefore look forward to your urgent response to advise your intended actions to legislate mandatory reporting in relation to the disability sector.

LISA Comment:  Since time immemorial, incident reports have a habit of  mysteriously disappearing!

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