For many Victorians with disability, the right to choose where they live and who they live with is so constrained that they are left feeling unsafe and fearful in their own homes, according to a report tabled in the State’s Parliament earlier this month.
The Community Visitor Annual Report 2020 by Victoria’s Office of the Public Advocate, reports findings from 4,142 visits by 400 active volunteer Community Visitors across the State to disability group homes.
Victoria’s Public Advocate and chair of the Community Visitor boards, Dr Colleen Pearce, says the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has not yet solved the shortage of disability accommodation options.
“Even when accommodation funds are allocated in a NDIS plan, a participant may not be able to source a suitable or willing provider,” says Dr Pearce.
“In other cases, participants are having to wait months for the reassessments or plan reviews required to move into identified alternative accommodation.”
A quarter of the 3,175 issues identified by volunteer Community Visitors in disability group homes this year, related to the appropriateness of the residential environment.
Other issues identified included allegations of abuse — notably resident-to-resident violence, concerns about the quality of staff support, emotional and physical wellbeing, behavioural support, healthcare, incident reporting and participation in the NDIS.
“Reports of residents being fearful of emotional and physical harm from other residents in their group home continue to be made with alarming regularity,” says Dr Pearce.
“Often those engaging in violence have been placed in inappropriate accommodation where they have no choice or control over who they live with.
“Community Visitors have repeatedly reported that incompatibility between residents is one of the main risk factors for violence between residents. While the solution is to grant residents greater choice, it is not so easily implemented as there are many systemic hurdles.”
Another concern is that new models of accommodation now operating under the NDIS lack most of the safeguards available to people with similar complex and challenging support needs living in group homes including the independent oversight provided by Community Visitors.
The report calls for the Victorian Government to extend the scope and funding of the Community Visitors Program to provide independent monitoring of disability services accommodation.
Other recommendations include:
• advocating for a stronger NDIS Code of Conduct to reflect the Victorian Government’s zero-tolerance approach to abuse
• cultural change training for disability service providers to counter violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation within services
• ensuring all behaviour support practitioners and Supported Independent Living workers have a competency standard equivalent to Certificate IV in disability to ensure consistent and safe supports across the system and to help prevent potentially harmful behaviours.
You can download the full report here.